Hashimoto’s disease, or hypothyroidism, is an autoimmune disease when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. When attacked, this gland does not produce sufficient levels of the hormones that control many activities. The thyroid gland is located below the larynx.
The thyroid makes two thyroid hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Thyroid hormones control the metabolism, brain development, breathing, heart and nervous system functions, body temperature, muscle strength, skin dryness, menstrual cycles, weight, and cholesterol levels.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is made by the pituitary gland in the brain, regulates thyroid hormone production. When thyroid hormone levels in the blood are low, the pituitary releases more TSH. When thyroid hormone levels are high, the pituitary decreases TSH production.
Hashimoto’s disease is more often occurring in middle-aged women, although it may occur at any age and men and children.
The symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease develop slowly, perhaps in years. Mild cases may not notice symptoms. In some persons, there may be a swelling in front of the throat. Other common symptoms are:
- tiredness, weakness
- intolerance to cold
- weight gain
- Memory loss
- Muscle aches and pains
- Prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Decreased libido
The severe form of hypothyroidism is called myxedema, which can lead to coma and even death.
The cause of the Hashimoto’s disease is unknown. It is unknown why the immune system produces antibodies to attack the thyroid gland. Some suggest that it may be caused by a virus, bacterium, other autoimmune condition, or even hereditary factor, gender, and age.
Although the causes of Hashimoto’s disease are unknown, the following factors may increase the risk of developing it:
- gender, as women have higher incidence
- other autoimmune diseases like, type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, autoimmune hepatitis
- consuming too much iodine (according to some researchers who suggest thet iodine may inhibit thyroid hormone production in some individuals)
Complications from hypothyroidism may arise if it is left untreated. In this case, those would be:
- constant swelling at the front of the neck due to enlarged gland
- heart problems due to low LDL level (“bad” cholesterol)
- birth defects, in case pregnant mothers do not treat their hypothyroidism
- myxedema (intense cold intolerance, drowsiness, lethargy, unconscousness)
- in rare cases, thyroid cancer or thyroid lymphoma may develop