Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is one of the most widespread thyroid inflammations, accounting for 80% of all cases. The autoimmune disease can be observed more frequently in young women as well as female and male patients of advanced age and has not yet been comprehensively researched.
The disease progresses rather slowly at first and is often not noticed by those affected. In many cases, it is usually diagnosed by chance during the annual routine examination based on blood values. In many cases, the first signs of the disease are a brief hyperthyroidism, but as the disease progresses, the symptoms change to hypothyroidism.
There are two main forms of Hashimoto’s disease. While the classic form of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis shows an enlargement of the thyroid gland or the formation of a goitre (goiter), the atrophic form of the disease is associated with a destruction of the thyroid tissue, which results in the atrophy of the organ.
In Germany, the atrophic form of thyroid disease is more common than classic Hashimoto’s. Based on some studies, however, doctors assume that those affected are already hereditarily predisposed, as usually several family members are affected by the autoimmune disease.
Causes of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
The causes of chronic thyroiditis are still not fully understood. However, experts assume that in many patients, a dysfunctional immune system is responsible for the thyroid disease.
In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the body forms antibodies against the predominant thyroid tissue for unexplained reasons and thus reduces the production of the important hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. This leads to chronic inflammation of the organ, which is significantly involved in human metabolism.
What symptoms indicate Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?
Chronic thyroid disease often starts with barely noticeable symptoms. Those affected rarely notice clear signs of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis at first, whereas in the advanced course of the disease, clear symptoms appear which, if left untreated, can enormously restrict the patient’s individual quality of life and lead to life-threatening secondary diseases.
Common symptoms of advanced Hashimoto’s thyroiditis:
- Frequent signs of fatigue, lassitude and lack of drive
- Limited concentration and poor memory
- depressed mood
- Gain in weight despite normal eating behaviour
- Sensitivity to cold
- Disruption of the female cycle, limitations in fertility and impotence
- Hair loss, dry skin and brittle nails
- Elevated blood lipid levels
- Increased blood pressure
- Decrease in sexual desire
- Ear noise and decreased hearing
- Pale skin colour as well as swelling in the facial area
In some cases, sufferers of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are also afflicted with additional symptoms caused by the body’s own immune system being disturbed. For the physician, a clear separation of the differently caused symptoms is not always clearly recognisable.
Patients who suffer from the immune disease often also complain of additional immune symptoms:
- Joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- flu-like symptoms
- Dry mucous membranes
- Gastrointestinal problems and nausea
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Small white patches on the forearms
Hashimoto’s during pregnancy
Women diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis often have reduced fertility. Thus, for many female Hashimoto’s patients, the desire to have a child usually remains unfulfilled.
However, if women succeed in becoming pregnant despite this diagnosis, the pregnancy is initially treated medically as a high-risk pregnancy and requires additional regular routine examinations that comprehensively monitor the healthy development of the unborn child.
Due to the autoimmune disease and the associated underactivity of the thyroid gland, there is a 3-fold higher risk that the affected person will suffer a miscarriage or that the child will suffer significant malformations.
In addition to an increased iodine intake, which is particularly important for the child’s development, doctors mainly administer the additional synthetic hormone levothyroxine, which replaces the missing thyroid hormones and thus ensures the healthy growth of the unborn child.
Hashimoto’s thyrioiditis – diagnosis and treatment
Hashimoto’s thyrioiditis is usually only clearly recognisable in the advanced course of the disease. After the affected person notices the first symptoms, going to the doctor is the next important step in order to decisively counteract the autoimmune disease with a clear diagnosis and subsequent medication.
A subsequent blood and ultrasound examination provides further important indicators to clearly confirm the initial suspicion of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.If the autoimmune-related chronic thyroiditis is suspected, the blood is examined for the presence of antibodies against proteins and the concentration of the two thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine as well as the TSH value are measured.
An increased TSH value already provides initial conclusions that the disease is Hashimoto’s thyrioditis. A subsequent sonography gives further visual indications of the existing inflammation. In the advanced course of Hashimoto’s disease, the thyroid tissue shows highly visible changes. In acute cases, the thyroid gland has already regressed considerably or is barely present.
How does the therapy proceed?
Therapeutic measures that lead to a complete cure of chronic thyroiditis have not yet been identified. Sufferers often only have to take the artificial hormone preparation L-thyroxine, which replaces the missing thyroid hormones, for the rest of their lives. The hormone medication must be taken daily in the morning on an empty stomach.
If an enlargement of the thyroid gland or a goitre (goiter) has developed in the course of the disease, doctors often advise surgical removal of the organ.
How should Hashimoto’s sufferers eat?
Due to unwanted weight gain, which is one of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a change in diet and a comprehensive diet are usually unavoidable. Living with Hashimoto’s not only means eating a balanced diet with iodine-rich foods, but also making sure you get enough exercise.
With detailed nutritional advice from the attending physician or an expert advisor, Hashimoto’s sufferers can lead a normal life without any occurring complaints significantly limiting their quality of life..
The right diet not only has a positive effect on the human organism, but can also alleviate symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease.
For this reason, those affected should have low-fat types of meat, fish, seafood, fruit, vegetables and dairy products on their daily menu. In this way, symptoms can be alleviated and weight can be permanently reduced.