Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: When Thyroid Levels Dip Too Low

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: When Thyroid Levels Dip Too Low

10:47 11 April in Health, Medicine

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that can cause thyroid levels to dip to unhealthy levels. A healthy immune system targets disease to keep the body healthy, but with this condition, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the thyroid gland. This affects the thyroid’s ability to produce enough thyroid hormones.

It’s difficult to know how many people around the world have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but it’s estimated to affect 2% of the population. Although rates of the disease have increased in recent years, this is likely due to the medical advancements that have led to better detection of it.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is one of the most common thyroid disorders, which also include hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), goiters, and thyroid cancer. About 200 million people around the world have some form of thyroid disease, according to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada. In Canada, studies suggest that about 10% of citizens suffer from a thyroid disorder. While it is estimated that half of the population is underdiagnosed, that is likely to change as routine bloodwork invariably now includes thyroid hormone assessment.

Here are some important things to know about identifying Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and managing the condition.

What are the symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?

When Hashimoto’s thyroiditis lowers thyroid levels, it affects the speed of metabolism. This can affect the functioning of every organ in the body. That’s why it can include a wide range of symptoms, including:

• An enlarged thyroid gland, creating a bulge on the neck

• Difficulty swallowing or breathing

• Mild weight gain

• Sensitivity to cold

• Fatigue

• Muscle weakness

• Constipation

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can also cause emotional and cognitive symptoms that interfere with day-to-day living. These can include depression, anxiety, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating.

Even though it’s among the most common autoimmune diseases, it can be difficult to diagnose because the disease shares symptoms with many other conditions. If someone develops these symptoms or feels that their symptoms have worsened, they should talk with a healthcare provider.

What increases the risk of getting it?

This disease is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in countries that have sufficient iodine, which includes many North and South American countries, the United Kingdom, and Japan. About five percent of Caucasians will get Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis during their lifetimes. Among the things that are helping individuals avoid hypothyroidism is the use of iodine-fortified salt.

Women are seven times more likely to get Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Age is another factor: People are most likely to develop the condition between the ages of 40 and 60, although onset can occur during younger ages as well. A family history of the disease also increases the risk. Less commonly, people can develop the condition after they’ve had other autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes.

How is it treated?

Some people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis will not develop hypothyroidism, and those who only develop mild hypothyroidism may be able to monitor Hashimoto’s thyroiditis under a doctor’s care without needing medical intervention.

Most people with the condition, however, will require treatment to raise their thyroid levels. T-4 is the hormone that is naturally produced by the thyroid, so T-4 hormone replacement therapy can alleviate the low thyroid levels caused by the disease. This is an ongoing, life-long treatment.

Living with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis 

In addition to hormone treatment, lifestyle changes can also help. To counteract the negative emotional symptoms that can occur with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, doctors recommend that people with the condition eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, and use relaxation techniques. Adopting these lifestyle habits may help manage the symptoms of the disease as well, allowing sufferers to feel better and live life to the fullest.