Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease wherein your body’s immune system attacks your thyroid gland, responsible for producing hormones that are vital to coordinating body functions.
The disease got its name from the Japanese physician that first described it in 1912 – Hakaru Hashimoto. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US and most commonly affects middle-aged women, however, it can also occur among both genders at any age.
What are the causes?
There is no specific cause for Hashimoto’s disease. Doctors cannot pinpoint why your immune system may attack your thyroid gland. However, there are certain risk factors for you to develop this disease such as:
- Age – This disease can occur at any age, but more commonly in middle age.
- Sex – Women are more predisposed to develop Hashimoto’s disease.
- Heredity – If anyone else in your family has had thyroid or other autoimmune diseases, you may be at a higher risk for Hashimoto’s disease.
- Other autoimmune diseases – Having other autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or type 1 diabetes, may also increase your risk for Hashimoto’s disease.
- Radiation exposure –Those exposed to high levels of radiation may be prone to developing Hashimoto’s disease.
What are the symptoms?
Hashimoto’s disease may be unnoticeable in its early stages, or a swelling may develop at the front of your throat. The disease may progress slowly over several years and cause thyroid damage, eventually leading to hypothyroidism.
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Fatigue and sluggishness
- Pale, dry skin
- Brittle nails
- Puffy face
- Tongue enlargement
- Hair loss
- Unexplained weight gain
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Muscle aches
- Muscle weakness
- Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding
- Memory lapses
When do I need to see a doctor?
Schedule a doctor’s appointment if you observe any of these signs and symptoms:
- Pale, puffy face
- Dry skin
- Feeling tired with no apparent reason