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Hashimoto’s disease, also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disease. In fact, it was the first diseases to ever be labeled as an autoimmune disorder. With this disorder, the immune system turns against the tissues of the body. In those who suffer from Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks the thyroid and it can result in causing many problems in a person’s body. Hashimoto’s was first described by a Japanese specialist named Hakaru Hashimoto in a German publication in 1912.
The Thyroid Gland: What It Is And How It Works
The thyroid gland is located in the base of a person’s neck, right below the Adam’s apple. The gland is shaped like a butterfly, each lobe lies on either side of the trachea or windpipe. The purpose of the thyroid is to produce, store and release thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. The hormones manufactured by the thyroid — liothyronine and levothyroxine — affect and help control almost every cell in the body. If a person’s body makes too much thyroid, the body will speed up and the condition is known as “hyperthyroidism.” While if there is too little thyroid hormone, it slows the body down and the condition is known as “hypothyroidism.”
What Are The Causes Of Hashimoto's Disease?
The exact reasons why a person develops this disease is unknown. However, there are many factors that are thought to play a role and these include:
- Hormones: This disease affects about seven times more females than males, which suggests that sex hormones could play a part. Moreover, some women have thyroid issues the first year after giving birth to a baby. However, as many as 20 percent of these females will go on to develop Hashimoto’s at a later date in time.
- Genes: Hashimoto’s often runs in families and having members who have a thyroid disorder or autoimmune disease suggests there is a genetic link.
- Excessive iodine: There are studies that suggest certain medications and too much iodine may trigger some people to develop thyroid disease.
- Exposure to radiation: There are some cases of thyroid disease being reported in individuals who have been exposed to radiation. This would include the atomic bombs in Hiroshima, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and radiation treatment for leukemia.
Symptoms Of Hashimoto’s Disease
It is possible that a person may not notice the first signs of this disease, or an individual may notice swelling in the front of the throat. Hashimoto’s generally progresses slowly through the years and it will result in chronic thyroid damage that leads to a decrease in thyroid hormones in the bloodstream.
Hashimoto's disease signs and symptoms are mainly related to an underactive thyroid and include:
- Sluggishness and feeling tired and/or fatigued
- Constipation (chronic)
- Increased sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Pale, dry skin
- A puffy facial appearance
- Hoarseness upon speaking
- Unexplainable weight gain which occurs infrequently and if often mostly fluid retention
- Tender, stiff muscles particularly in the shoulders and hips
- Muscle weakening particularly within the lower extremities
- Excessive menstrual bleeding
- Stiff and painful joints in the hands, knees and feet
- Episodic depression