Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland (chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis) leading to its failure. Thyroid gland is a small gland present at the base of the neck and is a part of endocrine system, which helps in coordinating many functions inside the body through hormone production. Hashimoto’s disease is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. It is more prevalent in middle-aged woman.
What Are the Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease?
Hashimoto’s disease is a slow progressing disease that does not show any symptoms initially, but over the years it causes thyroid damage leading to decreased production of thyroid hormone. It may also present with a swelling on the anterior neck/throat area leading to goiter formation. The signs and symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease include fatigue, malaise, lethargy, increased cold sensitivity, constipation, dry skin, brittle nails, hair fall/thinning, puffy face, tongue enlargement, weight gain, muscular pain/stiffness/weakness, joint pain/stiffness, decreased heart rate, abnormal menstrual bleeding, forgetfulness and/or depression.
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease in which autoantibodies are produced against thyroid gland, the cause of which is unknown, but is thought to be a trigger by a bacterium or virus. A combination of heredity, gender and age also play a role in determining the likelihood of developing the disease. The various risk factors for developing Hashimoto’s disease include:
Gender: It is more common in females than males.
Age: It is more common in middle age adult.
Heredity: An individual with a family history of Hashimoto’s disease is at a greater risk of developing it.
Autoimmune Diseases: There is an increased chance of developing Hashimoto’s disease if an individual has another autoimmune disease such as lupus, type 1 diabetes, Myasthenia gravis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Exposure to Radiation: People exposed to head and neck radiation are at a greater risk of developing the disease.
Hashimoto’s disease is diagnosed with the help of blood test for TSH, free T3 and T4 level and further antibody test for Anti-TPO (anti-thyroid peroxidase) and anti-Tg (anti-thyroglobulin) confirm the diagnosis for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The treatment for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is simple and effective with thyroid hormone replacement in the form of synthetic levothyroxine.
Is Hashimoto’s Disease Considered a Disability?
Generally, Hashimoto’s disease is not a disability, but if left untreated, it may lead to disability in the form of various complications. These include:
Goiter: It is the enlargement of the thyroid gland due to repetitive stimulation of underactive thyroid gland by the pituitary gland with production of TSH. Thyroid enlargement is mainly esthetically unappealing, but if it is excessively enlarged then it may lead to difficulty in swallowing and breathing. In this case, surgery will be required to remove the thyroid gland.
Cardiac Complications: Hypothyroidism is related to greater risk of heart diseases including increase in LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and changes in hear function and rhythm that may even lead to enlargement of heart and/or heart failure if hypothyroidism is left untreated.
Psychiatric Complications: Hypothyroidism may lead to mild depression, which worsens over time if it is left untreated. It may also lead to decreased libido (sexual desire), and delayed reactions and mental functioning.
Myxedema: This is a life threatening complication of prolonged, untreated Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This may lead to drowsiness, lethargy, mental fogginess and even coma that is triggered by stress in the body such as an exposure to infection, virus or sedatives. This is an emergency condition that requires immediate medical intervention.
Infertility: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may lead to infertility in women and even if the woman is able to bear children; there is a greater propensity of birth defects leading to developmental and psychiatric disorders in the child such as cleft palate. The child is also at a greater risk of developing heart and kidney disease.