Table of contents:
- Main symptoms
- What causes Hashimoto's thyroiditis
- How to confirm the diagnosis
- How the treatment is done
- Possible complications of thyroiditis
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid cells, causing inflammation of the thyroid gland, which usually results in transient hyperthyroidism that is later followed by hypothyroidism.
In fact, this type of thyroiditis is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism, especially in adult women, causing symptoms such as excessive tiredness, hair loss, brittle nails, and even memory failure.
Most of the time, the disease starts with a painless enlargement of the thyroid and, therefore, can only be identified during a routine examination by the doctor, but in other cases, thyroiditis can cause a feeling of a lump in the neck, which does not cause any pain on palpation.In either case, treatment with an endocrinologist should be started as soon as possible to regulate the functioning of the gland and prevent complications.
The most common symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis are exactly the same as those of hypothyroidism, so it is common to have:
- Easy weight gain;
- Excessive fatigue;
- Cold, pale skin;
- Low cold tolerance;
- Muscle or joint pain;
- Slight swelling of the front of the neck, at the thyroid site;
- Weaker hair and nails.
This problem is more common in women and is usually discovered between 30 and 50 years of age. Initially, the doctor may diagnose only hypothyroidism and, after doing other tests, identify thyroid inflammation, leading to the diagnosis of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
What causes Hashimoto's thyroiditis
The specific cause for the appearance of Hashimoto's thyroiditis is not yet known, however it is possible that it is caused by a genetic alteration, since it is possible that the disease appears in several people of the same family. Other studies indicate that this type of thyroiditis can be initiated after infection by a virus or bacteria, which ends up causing chronic inflammation of the thyroid.
Although there is no known cause, Hashimoto's thyroiditis appears to be more common in people with other endocrine disorders such as type 1 diabetes, adrenal gland malfunction, or other autoimmune diseases such as pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren's disease, Addison's disease or lupus, and others such as ACTH deficit, breast cancer, hepatitis and the presence of H. pylori.
How to confirm the diagnosis
The best way to diagnose Hashimoto's thyroiditis is to consult an endocrinologist and perform a blood test that evaluates the amount of T3, T4 and TSH, in addition to testing for antithyroid antibodies (anti-TPO).In the case of thyroiditis, TSH is usually normal or increased.
Some people may have antithyroid antibodies but not have any symptoms, being considered to have subclinical autoimmune thyroiditis and therefore do not need treatment.
Learn more about tests that evaluate the thyroid.
How the treatment is done
Treatment is usually only indicated when there are changes in TSH values or when symptoms appear, and it is usually started with hormone replacement using Levothyroxine for 6 months. After this time, it is usually necessary to go back to the doctor to reassess the size of the gland and carry out new tests to see if it is necessary to adjust the dose of the medicine.
In cases where there is difficulty breathing or eating, for example, due to an increase in the volume of the thyroid, surgery to remove the gland, called thyroidectomy, may be indicated.
How to diet
Food can also greatly affect thyroid he alth and, therefore, it is recommended to eat a he althy diet with foods rich in nutrients that are good for thyroid function, such as iodine, zinc or selenium, for example. See a list of the best thyroid foods.
See the video below for more tips on how adequate nutrition can help your thyroid function properly:
Possible complications of thyroiditis
When thyroiditis causes changes in hormone production and is not treated properly, some he alth complications can arise. Common ones include:
- Heart Problems: People with uncontrolled hypothyroidism are more likely to have high LDL levels in their blood, which increases their risk of heart problems;
- Mental he alth problems: due to decreased production of thyroid hormones, the body loses energy and therefore the person feels more tired, contributing to mood swings and even emergence of depression;
- Mixedema: This is a rare condition that usually appears in very advanced cases of hypothyroidism, leading to swelling of the face and even more serious symptoms like complete lack of energy and loss of conscience.
Thus, the ideal is that whenever you suspect thyroiditis, look for an endocrinologist to perform the necessary exams and start treatment as soon as possible.