Hashimito’s disease is the type of condition that can slowly sneak up on you without warning. It poses serious risks for women, as its signs and symptoms may not initially be felt, seen, or sensed. Improve your knowledge and awareness of this dangerous, and often undetected disease, so you can give yourself the best opportunity to avoid a delayed diagnosis.
What is Hashimoto’s Disease?
Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, primarily impacts middle-aged women. It is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system creates antibodies that attack your thyroid gland—the small gland at the base of your neck. Your thyroid gland is an essential element of your endocrine system, as it produces hormones that coordinate many of your bodily functions. Hashimoto’s diseases typically cases inflammation of the thyroid, which can lead to complications of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland).
Causes and Risk Factors of Hashimoto’s Disease
The causes of this autoimmune disease are not known. Some scientists believe Hashimoto’s disease may be caused by a virus or bacterium, while others believe it may stem from a genetic flaw. Factors that may impact your risk of Hashimoto’s disease include: gender, age, and heredity. More specifically, women are more likely to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, and while the disease can impact men and women of any age, it is most likely to impact middle age adults.
If members of your family have been diagnosed with a thyroid or autoimmune disease in the past, you also may be at a greater risk of Hashimoto’s disease. Other factors that may increase your risk include having been diagnosed with another auto immune disease, such as lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, or having been exposed to excessive amounts of environmental radiation.
Signs and Symptoms
Hashimoto’s disease typically progresses slowly over many years, causing chronic thyroid damage. Many of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease go undetected, and typically mirror those of hypothyroidism. Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following common symptoms:
- A swelling at the front of your throat (known as “goiter”)
- Memory lapses
- Muscle aches and stiffness
- Joint pain
- Increased sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Dry, pale skin
- Brittle nails
- A puffy face
- Hair loss
- A swollen tongue
- Unexplained weight gain
If you’re diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, your doctor may recommend treatment with synthetic hormones. Daily hormone replacement therapy may help if you are experiencing thyroid hormone deficiency. Use of daily synthetic hormones may be lifelong, though your doctor will likely regularly check your levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to monitor the proper dosage.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you have questions or concerns about Hashimoto’s disease, or believe you may be experiencing hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor. He/she can help you better understand your risk factors, or provide a diagnosis.