An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from some kind of thyroid disease, but about 60 percent of people with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition, according to the American Thyroid Association.
One such thyroid disease is Hashimoto’s disease. Also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis or chronic thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s disease is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism in the United States.
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack and start destroying the thyroid gland and its ability to produce hormones.
Thyroid hormones help regulate metabolism, body temperature, muscle strength and many other functions of the body. Thus, impaired thyroid functioning can take a toll on your health.
It is not clear what exactly causes this autoimmune disorder, but it is believed that genetic factors may be involved.
Risk Factors for Developing Hashimoto’s Disease
Although the cause of Hashimoto’s disease is not known, certain factors can increase your risk of developing this disease.
- Your genes can be a high risk factor. When one family member has an autoimmune condition, others are more likely to develop one. It can be Hashimoto’s disease or something else like celiac disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Women are at a higher risk than men. Hashimoto’s disease is seven times more likely to occur in women (due to hormonal changes), especially women who have been pregnant.
- Excessive iodine in the body can trigger this disease. It is recommended to eat less iodine, if you have a family history of the disease.
- Hashimoto’s disease is also one of the most common effects of radiation exposure. People who received radiation for leukemia and other types of cancer are at a higher risk of developing this disease, as well as Graves’ disease, Type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Addison’s disease.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease
Many people may have Hashimoto’s for many years before experiencing any noticeable signs and symptoms. The disease can remain stable for years without causing any problem.
Moreover, there are no signs and symptoms that are specific to this disease. Most symptoms are related to other conditions, especially hypothyroidism. This is why timely diagnosis is difficult.
As the disease progresses, it causes underactive thyroid resulting in the following symptoms.
- Drowsiness or feeling sluggish
- Mild weight gain
- Dry, pale skin
- Puffy face
- Weak and brittle nails
- Thinning hair
- Hoarse voice
- Lower body muscle weakness
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Fertility problems
- Enlarged thyroid or goiter
- Joint or muscle pain
- Forgetfulness and difficulty with learning
- Increased sensitivity to many medications
Complications Related to Hashimoto’s Disease
Because the symptoms of this autoimmune disease also resemble other diseases, it becomes difficult to get a timely diagnosis. If not detected and properly treated, Hashimoto’s disease can cause potentially severe heath complications.
Some of these complications include:
- Heart problems, including heart failure
- Confusion and loss of consciousness
- High cholesterol
- Decreased libido
- Birth defects
Over time, it may increase your risk of developing autoimmune disorders like:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Lupus erythematosus
- Ovary problems
- Heart problems
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Addison’s disease
To reduce the risk of these complications, Hashimoto’s disease requires appropriate management and continued treatment.