Hashimoto's disease is a condition that affects the thyroid and can evolve to hypothyroidism, resulting in a lack of hormones secreted by this gland.
Common in women, it sometimes doesn't show symptoms and can even be mistaken by other conditions.
What is Hashimoto's disease?
Rosália Padavani, endocrinologist, explains that Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease in which the organism produces antibodies against the person's own thyroid.
This gland, located in the neck, is responsible for the production of hormones that balance our metabolism, fertility, well-being, growth, and other vital functions.
Does it evolve to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism?
The condition develops a chronic thyroiditis. In other words, it causes an inflammation of the thyroid that, over time, can compromise the production of thyroid hormones, leading to hypothyroidism.
On the other hand, the antibodies attacking the thyroid can destroy the follicles and lead to a temporary hyperthyroidism, which is the excess of thyroid substances. The symptoms include inexplicable weight loss, irritability, hyperactivity, changes in heart rate and others.
Nobody knows what exactly causes thyroiditis, but there are indications that the genetic factor plays a role in it, which explains why it can be present in more than one person in the same family.
The excess in iodine can also contribute, triggering the condition in those with genetic predisposition., as well as environmental factors such as stress, recurrent infections, high levels of estrogen and radiation.
Although it affects people of both genders and all ages, doctor Rosália Padovani states that Hashimoto Thyroiditis is most common in women and people over 50 years of age.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis symptoms
Due to the fact that the disease progresses slowly, many times it is asymptomatic. The most intense symptoms occur when the condition develops to hypothyroidism. It can cause:
- Weakness, sleepiness and fatigue
- Dry hair and skin
- Weak nails
- Excessive cold
- Reduced hearing
- Joint pain
- Menstruation abnormalities
- Breast milk production unrelated to postpartum or breastfeeding, including men
- Lack of libido
- Face and body swelling
- Attention and memory problems
- Irritability and constant sadness, similar to depression
- High cholesterol
Can it cause weight gain?
In some cases, it may seem like Hashimoto Thyroiditis can make you gain weight because it generates fat, but it actually causes water retention, which results in weight gain.
However, the change on the scale only happens when there's a lack of hormones in the thyroid, in other words, hypothyroidism.
According to Dr. Rosália Padovani, the thyroid disease investigation is done through blood tests that measure the TSH (hormone that stimulates the thyroid). "In case there's any alteration, other exams must be required such as [hormone] T4L and the dosage of antithyroid antibodies", the doctor explains.
Does it have a cure?
"Unfortunately, the process is irreversible because the immune system doesn't recognize the thyroid as a definite part of the body," the specialist clarifies.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis treatment
The specialist may suggest hormone replacement therapy when Hashimoto's thyroiditis symptoms start to manifest. Each patient gets a drug dosage based on their weight, but it can be adjusted throughout the treatment.
Hormone replacement therapy won't stop the immune system of creating antibodies to destroy the thyroid, it will only relieve the lack of hormone.
Some websites and professionals suggest a gluten free diet or with low amounts of carbohydrates to those diagnosed with thyroid disorder.
However, there is still no concrete scientific ground that supports such treatments.