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What is Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism?

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis,or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is a type of autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system begins to attack the body’s own cells. In the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it is the tissue of the thyroid gland that is attacked by the immune system, gradually destroying the cells and preventing the thyroid gland from functioning properly. The thyroid gland becomes unable to produce the required amounts of thyroid hormones, leading to the condition known as hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis often causes hypothyroidism that may be combined with periods of hyperthyroidism, or overproduction of thyroid hormones. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is recognized by the presence of antibodies that act against thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin in the blood. These are the antibodies that can destroy thyroid tissue. The condition can also be characterized by its ability to cause leukocutes or white blood cells to invade the tissue of the thyroid gland.

The symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are the same as those of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. When the thyroid gland reacts to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis by producing too much thyroid hormones, the symptoms are those of an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism. When the tissues are damaged and prevented from producing thyroid hormones, the symptoms are those of an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism. Symptoms that may be experienced by a person who has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis include depression, weight gain, fatigue, increased sensitivity to heat and cold, changes to the heart rate and hair loss. Sometimes the patient may suffer from mania, in which case the condition is known as Prasad’s syndrome.

The exact mechanism through which the immune system attacks the thyroid tissue is not yet fully understood. Some people appear to have the antibodies that are present in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis without suffering any of the symptoms. There appears to be a genetic component to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, with the condition often running in families.

Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is treated with synthetic or animal derived thyroid hormone replacements. This treatment is usually very successful and prevents complications such as heart problems from arising. If the patient experiences hyperthyroidism as a result of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, they may require treatment with antithyroid drugs, radioactive iodine or surgery, if the thyroid becomes too active. In most cases, the hyperthyroidism will turn into hypothyroidism as the tissue of the thyroid gland becomes more damaged.

In North America, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. It is more prevalent in women and usually occurs in people between the ages of 45 and 65.


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