Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as Hashimoto’s disease, is an autoimmune disease and the most common cause for hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, which is caused by a lack of iodine in the thyroid. This affects its main function: to make key hormones that energize the body.

Hypothyroidism symptoms come about gradually. Typical ones that emerge include:

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Dry, thinning hair and hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Memory problems
  • Problems becoming pregnant
  • Problems tolerating cold
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Weight gain

Of course, not all these problems will trigger a visit to a physician until they become chronic or problematic. Swelling in the neck, or goiter, is one of the few straightforward clues that a patient may have hypothyroidism. Sometimes the goiter disappears over time, with or without treatment. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is diagnosed through a blood test for specific antibodies that nearly all Hashimoto’s patients have. No one is certain what causes Hashimoto’s; many researchers believe a gene plus a viral trigger is what causes this particular hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto’s disease is commonly seen with other autoimmune problems including:

  • Addison’s disease, a hormonal disorder
  • Autoimmune hepatitis, a disease in which the immune system attacks the liver
  • Celiac disease, a digestive disorder
  • Lupus, a chronic, or long-term disorder that can affect many parts of your body
  • Pernicious anemia a condition caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, a disorder that affects the joints and sometimes other body systems
  • Sjögren’s syndrome, a disease that causes dry eyes and mouth
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Vitiligo, a condition in which some parts of the skin are not pigmented

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is usually treated with a synthetic hormone. Patients need to be careful about what they eat since antigens in foods may aggravate the condition. Food additives like bromine and fluorine may also displace iodine from the thyroid.

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