What is Hashimoto’s Disease?

A doctor examining a woman's thyroid gland to check for signs of Hashimoto's disease.Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition that causes your thyroid gland to become enlarged (also known as goiter) and become underactive (also known as hypothyroidism). These symptoms may not appear at first, and in some people they may not develop at all, but they can occur gradually and lead to a variety of other issues, such as fatigue, weight gain, a slowed heart rate, difficulty concentrating, or a low mood.

Approximately 5% of people in the United States experience Hashimoto’s disease. It is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism worldwide, aside from iodine deficiency. While it can affect people of any age, sex, or ethnic background, it is much more common among people assigned female at birth (AFAB) than people assigned male at birth (AMAB). It is also typically diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50.

A person develops Hashimoto’s disease when their immune system creates antibodies to attack thyroid tissue. This causes thyroid inflammation and damage due to an accumulation of white blood cells in your thyroid. People with other autoimmune conditions, such as lupus, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, are more likely to develop Hashimoto’s disease than people who do not experience these conditions.

Your doctor can diagnose Hashimoto’s disease through a physical examination, a review of your medical history, and blood tests. Specific tests that help with this diagnosis include a thyroid-stimulating hormone test (which is typically used to check for hypothyroidism) and an antithyroid antibody test (which looks for certain types of antibodies in your blood to determine whether Hashimoto’s disease is the cause of your hypothyroidism).

Hashimoto’s disease cannot be cured, but in cases where it causes hypothyroidism, it can often be managed through medication. The standard treatment is levothyroxine, which supplements the hormone thyroxine (T4) and ensures that your body has enough of it to function normally. While you would need to take this medication for the rest of your life, it is effective at managing the symptoms of this condition for most people.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease and require a diagnosis or treatment, you can schedule an appointment at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center by calling (718) 670-7001.

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