A common illness among many people is hypothyroidism. This condition, as the name implies, affects the thyroid gland of the body, causing it to limit the hormone production. The thyroid is located in the neck and below the Adam ’s apple, where it produces the hormones as T3 or triiodothyronine and T4 or thyroxine. It is one of the largest parts of the endocrine system. This gland has important bodily functions such as regulating the body’s metabolism, energy distribution, the creation of protein, and sensitivity to other hormones. Clearly, for any condition to limit these vital hormones to be produced would prove to be detrimental to the body’s overall health. While there are many causes for hypothyroidism, the chief among them is the Hashimoto Disease.
What is Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism?
Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid. An intense inflammation will form in the thyroid and may eventually destroy the thyroid tissue given time. This severely limits thyroid hormone production, causing hypothyroidism. It is also known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Women and older adults are more likely to have this disease. Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism has also been connected to other diseases and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anemia, premature menopause, diabetes, and Addison’s Disease.
Causes of Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism
While no direct cause of Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism is currently known, there however several indirect causes that play a role. These include:
- The genetic make-up of individuals has a rather large impact on the contraction of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Genes are hereditary and passed down to the next generation, meaning it is possible for children of Hashimoto victims to have the condition as well.
- Hormones also play a role, especially in women. Sex hormones are thought to play a role as Hashimoto affects an estimated seven times as many women as men. During the first year of pregnancy, women are more likely to have symptoms of Hashimoto’s as well
- An excessive amount of iodine is said to increase the likelihood of having Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism.
- Exposure to a large amount of radiation can also increase the chances of Hashimoto’s. Notable examples include Hiroshima nuclear bombing victims and Chernobyl nuclear meltdown victims
Hashimoto’s Disease Symptoms
Early contraction of Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism may at first go unnoticed as there is no significant pain. Overtime however, a large swelling in the thyroid will develop, something known as a goiter. This can cause swallowing to become difficult and a swelling on the neck. There also exist several other minor symptoms as well:
- Weight gain
- Face puffiness and paleness
- Muscle and joint pain
- Loss of body temperature
- Pregnancy problems
- Loss of hair
- Brittle hair
- Extreme menstrual periods
- Slowed heart rate (source)
As with any medical condition, one should always refer to a doctor for professional advice. Many of these listed symptoms are also similar to other medical conditions. A trained medical doctor can easily distinguish between various diseases that exist.
Treating Hashimoto’s Disease
While there is no cure for this disease, there are however very effective medication in the form of thyroid hormone replacers. These set the body’s metabolism back in balance and replace any lost thyroid hormones. However, like any treatment for hypothyroidism, the treatment is usually long term, usually for life. These specialized pills come in a variety of different dosages, so it is imperative that the patient follows a doctor’s exact instructions to avoid any further complications. Many factors are taken into consideration for pill dosage such as:
- severity of hypothyroidism
- other health problems
- other medicines that may interact with synthetic thyroid hormones
With these factors in mind, the doctor will also have a lab test the patient in a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone test (TSH) or thyroid function test. These treatment options are slow acting, they may even take months on end to yield any noticeable results. They are however the most effective treatment options available. If the goiter grows too large, it may become necessary to remove portions of the thyroid entirely. Clearly, Hashimoto’s Disease is not a disease to be taken lightly and should be treated upon its discovery.