Hashimoto’s disease affects the thyroid gland. It’s also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis or autoimmune thyroiditis. The thyroid gland makes hormones that control virtually all of the body’s metabolic functions (how the body turns food into energy) and keep it working normally.
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system is attacking its own cells and organs.
Normally, the immune system protects the body against infections caused by bacteria, viruses and other harmful substances.
In Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system makes antibodies that attack and damage the thyroid tissue. As a result, the thyroid gland becomes inflamed and the ability to make thyroid hormone becomes damaged, eventually leading to hypothyroidism.
Joint stiffness and muscle pain.
Constipation (trouble having a bowel movement).
Thinning hair/hair loss.
Heavy or irregular periods.
Difficulty becoming pregnant.
Memory problems/difficulty thinking or concentrating.
Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test
A high TSH level most commonly means the thyroid gland is not producing enough T4 hormone. This lab is usually most consistent with a diagnosis of hypothyroidism or subclinical hypothyroidism.
Free T4 test
A low T4 level suggests that the person has hypothyroidism.
Antithyroid antibody test
Presence of antibodies indicates a higher risk of developing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Not everyone with Hashimoto’s disease develops hypothyroidism.
Because having antibody levels that are consistent with Hashimoto’s incur a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism, healthcare providers generally choose to monitor your condition and watch for any changes in your thyroid health.
If Hashimoto’s disease does progress to hypothyroidism, usual treatment is a synthetic (man-made) form of thyroid hormone called levothyroxine (Synthroid, Tirosint, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Unithroid).
This drug restores the normal function of the thyroid.
You’ll need to take it every day for the rest of your life.
Your providers and you will figure out how to adjust your dose to make sure that your hypothyroidism is kept under control.