What is Hashimoto's thyroiditis?
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common form of thyroiditis—a condition characterized by inflammation of the thyroid gland. It is also the most common thyroid disorder in America.
Your doctor may refer to Hashimoto's thyroiditis as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis or autoimmune thyroiditis.
What are the symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis?
It's possible to have Hashimoto's thyroiditis for years without experiencing a single sign or symptom. But if you have symptoms, they will be associated with the disorder's 2 primary complications—goiter and hypothyroidism. Not all individuals will develop these complications. With Hashimoto's thyroiditis, hypothyroidism occurs much more often than a goiter.
The main sign of a goiter is visible swelling in the front of your neck.
With hypothyroidism, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
To get more details, please read our article about the symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
What causes Hashimoto's thyroiditis?
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder. That means it is caused by a malfunction in your immune system. Instead of protecting your thyroid tissue, your immune cells attack it. Doctors aren't entirely sure why the immune system, which is supposed to defend the body from harmful viruses and bacteria, sometimes turns against the body's healthy tissues.
You can learn more about this in our article on the causes of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
What are the risk factors for Hashimoto's thyroiditis?
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder, so the main risk factor for developing this thyroid disorder is having a pre-existing autoimmune condition.
If you have an autoimmune disorder, your immune system is malfunctioning in some way. That's why you are at a higher risk of developing Hashimoto's thyroiditis than someone who does not have an autoimmune disorder.
To learn more about what you should do if you are at risk for this condition, please read our article about the risk factors for Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Can Hashimoto's thyroiditis be prevented?
Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
How is Hashimoto's thyroiditis treated?
There is a single treatment for Hashimoto's thyroiditis: thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is highly effective at treating the hypothyroidism related to Hashimoto's thyroiditis. When Hashimoto's thyroiditis also leads to thyroid enlargement (goiter), you may need additional medical evaluation, such as thyroid ultrasound or consultation with doctors who are thyroid specialists.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis may impair your thyroid's ability to make a healthy amount of thyroid hormone. What thyroid hormone replacement therapy does is provide your body with the necessary thyroid hormones it needs.
We have an article all about thyroid hormone replacement therapy that will help you learn more about this treatment. It contains information about how this therapy manages Hashimoto's thyroiditis and connects you to other resources about the different types of thyroid hormone replacement medications available today.