Ana Maria Kausel, MD, is a double board-certified endocrinologist affiliated with Mount Sinai St. Luke's/Mount Sinai West in New York City.
Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. It occurs as a result of a person's immune system inappropriately attacking their thyroid gland. This autoimmune disease is more common in women and tends to run in families.
Symptoms of Hashimoto's disease typically develop slowly over time, as the thyroid gland becomes more damaged and less functional. Eventually, the deficiency in thyroid hormone production causes symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue, weight gain, constipation, and/or cold sensitivity.
While not a curable disease, Hashimoto's disease is very treatable. In order to normalize thyroid hormone levels, most patients require lifelong treatment with a thyroid hormone replacement medication called levothyroxine.
Hashimoto’s disease is a chronic condition that cannot be reversed or cured. The disease, however, can be effectively managed by restoring a patient’s thyroid hormone levels to normal. This almost always entails taking a medication called levothyroxine, which is the synthetic form of the thyroid hormone T4 (thyroxine).
Due to autoimmune-mediated damage to the thyroid gland, Hashimoto’s disease, over time, results in decreased thyroid hormone production. Since thyroid hormones regulate your body's metabolism, a hormone deficiency eventually results in symptoms of hypothyroidism (e.g., fatigue and feeling cold). Complications, like infertility and an increase in your “bad” cholesterol, may also occur.
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition that develops when a person’s immune system misguidedly attacks their thyroid gland. A combination of one’s genetic makeup and being exposed to certain environmental factors (e.g., infection, stress, or excessive iodine intake) triggers the development of this thyroid disease.
An autoimmune disorder or disease occurs when a person's immune system erroneously attacks their own cells and tissues, thinking they are diseased. There are over 100 different autoimmune diseases, and while some target one organ in your body (for example, the thyroid gland in Hashimoto's thyroiditis), others target multiple organs (for example, the skin, kidneys, and more in lupus).
The term "goiter" describes an abnormal growth of the thyroid gland. A goiter can occur for many reasons, including when thyroid hormone production is decreased (hypothyroidism), increased (hyperthyroidism), or normal (euthyroidism). Some people have no symptoms with a goiter. Others may experience discomfort, swelling, coughing, voice changes, and/or difficulties swallowing.
Hypothyroidism is also called an underactive thyroid gland because it develops when your thyroid gland does not make sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. Since thyroid hormone regulates your body's metabolism and temperature, a deficiency may result in a variety of symptoms including feeling cold, constipation, and mild weight gain.
Myxedema coma is a severe—but rare—manifestation of hypothyroidism that is considered a medical emergency. It is caused by a significant slowing of function within the body. Symptoms often include a decrease in mental status, hypothermia, and slowed breathing.
Radioactive iodine is a medicine that is taken up by your thyroid gland upon entering your bloodstream. It is available in two forms. The first form, I-123, is harmless to thyroid cells and is used along with a thyroid scan to evaluate thyroid gland activity. The second form, I-131, destroys thyroid cells and may be used to treat patients with Graves' disease or thyroid cancer.
A TSH test measures the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone in a patient’s bloodstream. TSH is produced and released by a person’s pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. When the thyroid gland starts to malfunction and hormone levels drop too low, TSH levels rise in an effort to stimulate the thyroid gland into making more hormone.
Antibodies are proteins produced by your immune system to help protect you against infection. Sometimes though, as in the case of certain autoimmune diseases, antibodies mistakenly attack your own tissues. Thyroid antibody tests are blood tests that are used to help diagnose autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto's disease or Graves' disease).
The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck. It is shaped like a butterfly, as it has two lobes with a connecting piece of tissue called the isthmus. Your thyroid is responsible for producing and releasing hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones regulate how your body uses energy. They also aid in processes like digestion, staying warm, and heart and muscle functioning.
American Thyroid Association. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Mathew V, Misgar RA, Ghosh S, et al. Myxedema coma: a new look into an old crisis. J Thyroid Res. 2011;2011:493462. doi:10.4061/2011/493462
American Thyroid Association. Radioactive iodine.