Often referred to as an autoimmune thyroid disease, Hashimoto’s disease currently affects more than 16 million people in the United States. This autoimmune thyroid disease is a disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid, which is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck resulting in decreased production of thyroid hormone. The decrease production of thyroid hormone is known as hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause. Continue reading to discover the most common signs and symptoms of this disease.
The Most Common Signs & Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease
Many people who suffer from this disease may not notice any signs or symptoms for a long time. The reason is because the disease often progresses slowly over many years.
The most common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, a swollen face, weak and/or painful muscles, loss of hair, brittle nails, constipation, depression, tongue enlargement, trouble remembering things, unexpected weight gain, dry skin, sensitivity to cold, and irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding.
Hashimoto Disease Treatment
One of the most common treatments for this disease is a medication known as levothyroxine. Since this medication is virtually the same as the hormone that the thyroid normally makes, the drug is extremely effective for most people. Most doctors encourage their patients to take the medication in the morning right before eating.
Every six to eight weeks, the doctor may perform a blood test to ensure that the medication is working properly. The dosage may be adjusted until the doctor find a dose that works for you. Once the right dosage has been achieved, the doctor may perform a blood test every six months and then eventually only once a year.
Common Foods to Avoid
The thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormone. People with Hashimoto’s disease may be more sensitive to the effects of iodine due to the autoimmune nature of the disease. Ideally, foods with large quantities of iodine should be avoided. Some examples are kelp and seaweed.
In addition, you’ll want to let your doctor know if you are taking iodine supplements as these could be problematic to your condition. Keep in mind that many cough syrups also contain iodine, but your doctor or pharmacist will be able to determine which ones are safe for you.
Known Risk Factors
Some people are more prone to developing this disease than others. The known risk factors for Hashimoto’s disease include
Age: Most people who develop this autoimmune thyroid disease are middle age.
Sex: As compared to men, women are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
Hereditary: If there are people in your family with this disease, you are at risk for developing it in the future.
Other Autoimmune Disease: People who are currently suffering from autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and/or type 1 diabetes may eventually be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.
Radiation Exposure: According to many studies, people who are exposed to large amounts of environmental radiation are at risk of Hashimoto’s disease.
Complications of Hashimoto’s Disease
Hashimoto’s disease needs to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, otherwise complications may occur. These are the most common complications associated with this disease:
Heart Problems: When this disease is not treated promptly, people may develop heart disease. They may also suffer from an enlarged heart and heart failure.
Myxedema: A rare and life-threating condition, myxedema can develop when Hashimoto’s disease is left untreated for a long period of time. Some of the triggers of myxedema are infection, bodily stress, sedatives, and exposure to cold. The signs and symptoms of myxedema include severe lethargy and unconsciousness. It is important to note that people with these signs and symptoms require immediate medical attention.
Goiter: Goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. One of the causes of goiter can be the overstimulation of the thyroid gland to release hormones due to the autoimmune nature of Hashimoto’s disease. While an enlarged thyroid is not usually painful, a goiter can interfere with your speech, appearance, breathing, or swallowing.
Mental Health Problems: Over time, people with untreated Hashimoto’s disease may experience severe depression. They may also be disinterested in sex. If the disease is not treated for a long amount of time, such people may be at risk of slowed mental functioning.
Birth Defects: As compared to babies born to healthy mothers, babies born to mothers with untreated Hashimoto’s disease are at a greater risk of birth defects. These babies may also be prone to developmental and/or intellectual problems.
When to See A Doctor
It is important to know when to schedule an appointment with a doctor. If you are noticing signs of constipation, dry skin, extreme tiredness, and a puffy face, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that you should also plan to see a doctor for occasional thyroid testing if you’ve had thyroid surgery, radiation treatment, or ingested anti-thyroid medications.
Don’t forget that you should also see your doctor regularly if you are receiving hormone therapy for this condition.