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What is Hashimoto disease? How does it affect those diagnosed?

By Blue Cross NC | April 4, 2018 | Health Conditions, Uncategorized

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Over the past few weeks, Hashimoto disease has received an increased amount of online attention. With public figures and celebrities speaking out about their diagnosis, most recently Gigi Hadid, many people are asking – what exactly is this condition and how does it affect those diagnosed?

“What is Hashimoto Disease?” 

NEW YORK, NY – September 11, 2017: Bella Hadid and Gigi Hadid walk the runway at the Anna Sui Spring Summer 2018 fashion show during New York Fashion Week

Hashimoto disease is an autoimmune thyroiditis condition caused by antibodies attacking the thyroid gland. When attacked, the gland becomes inflamed, which causes the thyroid to stop making hormones. This can result in an underactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism.

To better understand our body’s mechanics, thyroid hormones are extremely vital for body regulation. They impact our metabolic rate, heart, and digestive function, muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance1. When deprived of these hormones, the body reacts in a variety of ways.

Common symptoms are:

Depression and fatigue, weight gain, constipation, pale or dry skin, hair loss, and/or decreased tolerance of cold environments. 

Risk Factors

Doctors are currently unsure of what causes the immune system to attack your thyroid gland. However, they do know that Hashimoto disease is most common in women, those with a family history of thyroid/autoimmune illnesses, those who currently have another autoimmune disease (e.g. type 1 diabetes or celiac disease) and those who have been exposed to high levels of radiation.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you or someone you know experiences the symptoms listed above, your doctor or physician may test for Hashimoto disease with a hormone or antibody test. Both tests are done by taking a blood test. If the tests come back positive, doctors most often prescribe synthetic hormones to make up for the under-producing thyroid. When the inflammation subsides and the thyroid heals, sometimes the gland will start making thyroid hormones again.  If the gland does not recover, the hormones are taken for life (thyroid hormone replacement).

Dr. Wu relates a personal experience with thyroiditis:  “My teenage daughter was an avid soccer player.  When she started needing more sleep and slowing down on the soccer field, we passed it off to the ups and downs of going through the teenage years.  After a month of intolerable symptoms, it was diagnosed as hypothyroidism with thyroiditis confirmed with testing.  The thyroid hormone replacement has been simple – no side effects, one of the less costly drugs for any condition.”

Hashimoto disease affects roughly five out of every 100 individuals2, but through proper treatment, the condition can be managed. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, make an appointment today to visit your doctor to discuss.