Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis and Hashimoto’s disease, is an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid gland is gradually destroyed. Early on, symptoms may not be noticed. Over time, the thyroid may enlarge, forming a painless goiter. Some people eventually develop hypothyroidism with accompanying weight gain, fatigue, constipation, depression, hair loss, and general pains. After many years the thyroid typically shrinks in size. Potential complications include thyroid lymphoma. Furthermore, because it is common for untreated patients of Hashimoto’s to develop hypothyroidism, further complications can include, but are not limited to, high cholesterol, heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, myxedema, and potential pregnancy problems.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is thought to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.Risk factors include a family history of the condition and having another autoimmune disease. Diagnosis is confirmed with blood tests for TSH, T4, and antithyroid autoantibodies. Other conditions that can produce similar symptoms include Graves’ disease and nontoxic nodular goiter.
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Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is typically treated with levothyroxine. If hypothyroidism is not present, some may recommend no treatment, while others may treat to try to reduce the size of the goiter. Those affected should avoid eating large amounts of iodine; however, sufficient iodine is required especially during pregnancy. Surgery is rarely required to treat the goiter.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis affects about 5% of Caucasians at some point in their lives. It typically begins between the ages of 30 and 50 and is much more common in women than men. Rates of the disease appear to be increasing. It was first described by the Japanese physician Hakaru Hashimoto in 1912. In 1957, it was recognized as an autoimmune disorder.
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