Could your thyroid problem actually be an autoimmune disease?
The American Thyroid Association estimates more than 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disorder. Of these disorders, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is one of the most common, believed to be the leading cause of primary hypothyroidism in North America. But it may surprise you to learn that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, is actually an autoimmune disease, like type-1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
An autoimmune disorder causes your immune system – which usually fights off infections – to attack otherwise helpful parts of your body. In the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, your immune system attacks your thyroid, which can cause inflammation and lead to an underactive thyroid gland.
Hashimoto’s most commonly affects older women, though it can strike either sex at any age. Risk factors include prior autoimmune diseases or a family history of thyroid problems.
The symptoms for Hashimoto’s are often vague and easily confused with other health problems. They include:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Pale, dry skin
- A puffy face
- Hoarse voice
- Unexplained weight gain
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, especially in your shoulders and hips
- Pain and stiffness in your joints and swelling in your knees or the small joints in your hands and feet
- Muscle weakness, especially in your lower extremities
- Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia)
Fortunately, Hashimoto’s can typically be treated fairly easily with a daily pill to maintain proper thyroid hormone levels.
To determine if you have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis—or any number of other thyroid issues—have your doctor check your blood for your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (or TSH) levels.