Is There a Link Between Your Thyroid Disease and Chronic Hives?

Research suggests that around 12 percent of people with chronic urticaria (chronic hives) have an underlying autoimmune thyroid disease—most commonly Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism

Gaining knowledge about the link between these two health conditions is important, as treating one may benefit (or at least provide insight into) the other. 

Overview of Chronic Urticaria

Urticaria is the medical term for hives, which is a common skin condition that causes circular, pink swellings or welts (called wheals) that are itchy (sometimes stinging or burning). Hives often develop quickly on your skin, last for a few hours, and then fade away. New hives then appear as the old ones disappear.

Chronic urticaria is diagnosed when a person develops hives nearly every day for six or more weeks.

There are a number of triggers for chronic urticaria and hives. In some cases, chronic urticaria can be tracked to a particular food allergy, such as nuts, peanuts, fish, wheat, eggs, or dairy products. In other cases, environmental allergens, like pollen, can be a trigger.

The majority of cases, however, have no clear cause and are referred to as chronic idiopathic urticaria with "idiopathic" meaning that the trigger is unknown. In those cases, it's believed that a substantial number are autoimmune in origin.

Urticaria: Hives Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Chronic Urticaria and Autoimmune Disease

While there is certainly a link or an association between chronic urticaria and autoimmune thyroid disease, it's unclear exactly why this link exists.

It may be that people with chronic urticaria and autoimmune thyroid disease are more vulnerable to developing inflammation. This is supported by the fact that, besides autoimmune thyroid disease, there are other autoimmune diseases linked to chronic urticaria.

These include:

It's worthy to mention, too, that besides just thyroid disease, antithyroid antibodies (for example, antithyroid peroxidase antibodies and antithyroglobulin antibodies) are also more common in people with chronic urticaria versus the general population.

Treating Thyroid Disease to Resolve Chronic Urticaria

Research suggests that some people with chronic urticaria who are hypothyroid may have a remission of their chronic urticaria with appropriate thyroid treatment.

In one very small study, two out of ten patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis experienced remission of their urticaria when treated with levothyroxine (within six to eight weeks). 

Of course, besides evaluating your thyroid (and treating any underlying dysfunction), there are a number of other therapies that can ease your hives.

In addition to identifying and avoiding triggers, medical therapies include:

  • Antihistamines such as Zyrtec (Cetirizine) Xyzal (Levocetirizine), Clarinex (Desloratadine) Claritin (loratadine) and Allegra (fexofenadine) 
  • Leukotriene antagonists like Singulair (montelukast)
  • Histamine (H2) blockers like Tagamet (cimetidine), Pepcid (famotidine), Axid (nizatidine), Zantac (ranitidine)
  • Corticosteroid drugs, such as prednisone
  • Dapsone—also known as diamino diphenyl sulfone (DDS), is an antibiotic that can be effective for some patients
  • Xolair (Omalizumab)—a humanized monoclonal antibody has had good results with chronic urticaria patients who did not respond to other treatments
Treating Hives Effectively

A Word From Verywell

The take-home message is that if you have chronic urticaria but have not undergone testing of your thyroid function, be sure to bring this up with your doctor.

Not only may treating your thyroid dysfunction improve your urticaria, but you will also address your thyroid health (a double bonus).

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Article Sources
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  • Kim DH, Sung NH, Lee AY. Effect of levothyroxine treatment on clinical symptoms in hypothyroid patients with chronic urticaria and thyroid autoimmunity. Ann Dermatol. 2016 Apr;28(2):199-204. 
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