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Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. This disorder causes the body’s immune system to attack the thyroid, making it under active. Hashimoto’s is most commonly diagnosed in middle-age, although it may occur at any age. Women are more likely to develop this disease than men. Having a close relative with Hashimoto’s or another autoimmune disease makes a person more likely to develop this disorder.  Symptoms usually appear gradually. They include constipation, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, hair loss, and fatigue.


The thyroid is a gland located under the Adam’s apple in the neck. It is part of the endocrine system. The thyroid produces two hormones: T3 and T4. These hormones control the body’s metabolism, which governs the speed of most processes in the body. The clinical examination will include questions about the symptom history and family history. A physical examination will be preformed, looking for signs of an enlarged neck. If the disease has been present for a long time, the thyroid may be smaller than normal. A blood test will be ordered to check levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). If this number is elevated, free T3 and free T4 will be checked with another blood test. High TSH coupled with low T4 and low or normal T3 indicates an under active thyroid. An antibody test may be done to confirm Hashimoto’s as the cause. Treatment consists of synthetic thyroid hormone. This medication will need to be taken for life. Regular TSH checks should be done every six to 12 months.  Untreated Hashimoto’s may have serious consequences. An under active thyroid can cause high cholesterol. In time, this may lead to an enlarged heart, or even heart failure. Depression is another complication which may be severe. Untreated Hashimoto’s may cause mixedema, a rare disorder that starts with extreme cold intolerance and may end in coma. This is a medical emergency that must be treated in a hospital.


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