Is Hypothyroidism Genetic?

Having a first-degree family member (parent, sibling, child) with a thyroid disorder increases the risk of developing a thyroid condition. Research suggests that about 64% of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and 65% of thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), concentrations are genetically determined.

While genetics play a role in hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), environmental factors are also involved, so not everyone with a family history of the condition will be affected. Read on to learn how hypothyroidism is inherited, its causes, symptoms, and when to see a healthcare provider. 

Woman speaking to a healthcare provider.

David Jakle / Getty Images

Hypothyroidism Causes

There are several causes of hypothyroidism, including:

  • Autoimmune disease (e.g., Hashimoto’s disease) 
  • Surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid gland 
  • Radiation treatment to the head or neck 
  • A congenital condition (baby is born with the absence of or partially developed thyroid gland)
  • Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland from autoimmune disease or infection) 
  • Medications (e.g., lithium, certain chemotherapy drugs)
  • Imbalanced iodine levels (deficiency or excess)
  • Genetics/family history 
  • Hypothalamic and/or pituitary gland disorders

How Is Hypothyroidism Inherited?

Exactly how hypothyroidism is inherited is not yet fully understood. Genetic sequencing tests help scientists explore the role genes play in influencing thyroid health.

Genetic variant (or gene mutation) is the term used to describe a difference in a gene's deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequencing that may impact your health. Inherited (hereditary) variants are passed down from parents to children. Researchers have discovered that some inherited genetic variants influence thyroid hormone production and a person's likelihood of developing hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto's disease—the most common form of hypothyroidism—is an autoimmune condition. Several inherited genes have been linked to Hashimoto's disease, including immune regulatory genes HLA, CTLA4, and PTPN22 and thyroid-specific genes TG and TSHR. First-degree relatives (e.g., parents, siblings) of a person with Hashimoto's are nine times more likely to develop the condition.

Role of Genetics In Other Thyroid Diseases

Genetics may play a role in other thyroid diseases, such as Graves’ disease/hyperthyroidism (an overproduction of thyroid hormone). Some people may carry genes for or have a genetic predisposition for the disease, but it may not develop unless triggered by other factors (e.g., stress, pregnancy, infection).

What Is the Risk?

Research studies estimate the heritability of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4)production is as high as 65%. However, having a family history of thyroid disease or genetic variants associated with hypothyroidism does not guarantee you will develop the condition; it just means you have an increased risk. Environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins and eating certain foods, also play a role in thyroid health and hormone production.

In the United States, an estimated 5% of the population has hypothyroidism. It is much more common in women and people aged 60 and older. Other risk factors for hypothyroidism include: 

  • Personal history of thyroid disease 
  • Surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid gland 
  • History of radiation therapy to the head and/or neck 
  • Pregnancy in the past six months
  • Family history 

Can Hypothyroidism Be Prevented?

There is no known way to prevent hypothyroidism. If you have a family history of the disease or other risk factors, staying aware of any changes in your body and asking your healthcare provider to regularly monitor your thyroid hormone levels is the best way to detect it early. Hypothyroidism is highly treatable, and early detection can help prevent future health complications.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

When the thyroid gland produces insufficient thyroid hormone levels, the body’s processes begin to slow down. Many people do not have noticeable symptoms in their early stages, but untreated hypothyroidism may cause them over time. Symptoms vary depending on the severity of thyroid hormone deficiency.  

Common hypothyroidism symptoms include:

  • Cold intolerance
  • Depression 
  • Dry skin and hair 
  • Fatigue
  • Infertility 
  • Joint and muscle pain 
  • Irregular menstrual cycle and/or heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Slow heart rate 
  • Weight gain 

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have signs or symptoms of hypothyroidism, see your healthcare provider. They will perform a thorough physical examination to check for visible signs of the condition (e.g., goiter (enlarged thyroid gland), dry skin) and ask about your family medical history.

The only way to know if you have hypothyroidism is through blood tests that measure thyroid hormone levels in the bloodstream. Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Even without symptoms of hypothyroidism, it is important to tell your healthcare provider about your family history of hypothyroidism or other thyroid diseases. Some people with hypothyroidism have no symptoms. Early detection is key to preventing future health complications associated with low thyroid hormone levels. 


Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone. Symptoms include cold intolerance, depression, fatigue, and weight gain.

Researchers have discovered gene variants (mutations) associated with thyroid disease and suggest that up to 65% of thyroid hormone production is determined by genetics, indicating that a family history increases your risk. This is especially true for those who have a family member with an autoimmune disease (e.g., Hashimoto’s thyroiditis). 

Talk to your healthcare provider if you have a family history of thyroid disease or have symptoms of hypothyroidism. They will perform a thorough physical exam and order blood tests to measure hormone levels in your bloodstream. 

A Word From Verywell

If you have a family history of hypothyroidism, let your healthcare provider know. Some people with hypothyroidism have no symptoms, so it's important to be proactive and closely monitor your thyroid hormone levels for early detection of the condition. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • At what age does hypothyroidism typically occur?

    Hypothyroidism is most common in people over age 60 but can occur at any age. Some babies are born with a form of hypothyroidism known as congenital hypothyroidism; others develop the condition due to genetic and/or environmental factors over time. 

  • Will I have hypothyroidism if my mom has it?

    People with a family history of thyroid disease have an increased risk of developing the condition, but it does not guarantee that you will develop it. The risk of developing hypothyroidism increases nine-fold if a parent has autoimmune hypothyroidism, known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

  • What are the early warning signs of thyroid problems?

    Early signs and symptoms of thyroid problems vary from person to person. The most common signs include fatigue, depression, constipation, cold intolerance, slowed heart rate, joint and muscle pain, and weight gain.

14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Zhou W, Brumpton B, Kabil O. et al. Gwas of thyroid stimulating hormone highlights pleiotropic effects and inverse association with thyroid cancer. Nat Commun. 2020;11(1):3981. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-17718-z

  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

  3. National Library of Medicine. What is a gene variant and how do variants occur?

  4. Taylor PN, Porcu E, Chew S, et al. Whole-genome sequence-based analysis of thyroid function. Nat Commun. 2015;6:5681. doi:10.1038/ncomms6681

  5. American Thyroid Association. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

  6. Davies TF, Latif R, Yin X. New genetic insights from autoimmune thyroid disease. J Thyroid Res. 2012;2012:623852. doi:10.1155/2012/623852

  7. Bothra N, Shah N, Goroshi M, et al. Hashimoto's thyroiditis: relative recurrence risk ratio and implications for screening of first-degree relatives. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2017;87(2):201-206. doi:10.1111/cen.13323

  8.  National Organization for Rare Diseases. Graves’ disease.

  9. Bajaj JK, Salwan P, Salwan S. Various possible toxicants involved in thyroid dysfunction: a review. J Clin Diagn Res. 2016;10(1):FE01-FE3. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2016/15195.7092

  10. American Academy of Family Physicians. Hypothyroidism.

  11. American Thyroid Association. Hypothyroidism (underactive).

  12.  National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

  13. American Thyroid Association. First-degree family members of patients with hypothyroidism due to hashimoto’s thyroiditis have an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism. 

  14. Chiovato L, Magri F, Carlé A. Hypothyroidism in context: where we've been and where we're going. Adv Ther. 2019;36(Suppl 2):47-58. doi:10.1007/s12325-019-01080-8