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How Do You Know When It's Hasimoto's?

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Nearly 5% of Americans over the age of 12 have been diagnosed hypothyroidism, with estimates that an additional 5% of the population also have the disease but have gone undiagnosed. This underactive thyroid condition which impacts your mood, metabolism, and mental clarity can be caused by a number of different factors, including the use of certain medications, iodine deficiency, and even pregnancy. However, decades of research into the underlying causes of hypothyroidism have concluded that one condition in particular is to blame: an autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto's disease.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is named after the Japanese physician Hakaru Hashimoto, who first observed the disorder in 1912. When you suffer from Hashimoto's disease, which usually emerges between the ages of 30 and 50, your body's immune system gradually begins to attack your thyroid. This results in inflammation that impedes the gland's ability to produce sufficient hormones.

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The onset of Hashimoto's is often slow at first, with minor issues such as slight fatigue likely being overlooked. Over time, hypothyroidism eventually develops, complete with symptoms of weight gain, depression, constipation, hair loss, and body aches. While this is the stage at which the disease is typically diagnosed, often the classic signs of an underactive thyroid can still go unnoticed. When left untreated, the disease can lead to serious cardiovascular complications such as high cholesterol, heart disease, and even heart failure.

Alarmingly, the incidence of Hashimoto's disease has been growing in recent years, especially among Caucasians. It is estimated that approximately 5% of all Caucasians will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetimes, with women about 5 to 10 times more likely than men to suffer from the condition. In addition, your risk of developing another autoimmune disorder rises if you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

How do you know if your underactive thyroid condition is caused by Hashimoto's? Often, the most obvious sign is an enlargement of the thyroid gland itself, known as goiter. You can check for this yourself by drinking a glass of water in front of a mirror with your head slightly tipped back to observe the area of your thyroid. Do you see any nodules or bulges as you swallow? Do you notice any swelling or bumps when you feel for your thyroid between your voice box and collar bone? If you find any inflammation in this area, or would prefer a more thorough examination, it is best to schedule a visit with a physician.

Jennifer

Jennifer recently retired from her career as a Certified Manual Physical Therapist to spend more time with her family. When she isn't writing about natural medicine, she enjoys practicing yoga, rock climbing, and running marathons.

References

  1. Mincer DL, Jialal I. Hashimoto Thyroiditis. 2022 Jun 21. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 29083758.
  2. Klubo-Gwiezdzinska J, Wartofsky L. Hashimoto thyroiditis: an evidence-based guide to etiology, diagnosis and treatment. Pol Arch Intern Med. 2022 Mar 30;132(3):16222. doi: 10.20452/pamw.16222. Epub 2022 Mar 3. PMID: 35243857; PMCID: PMC9478900.
  3. Zaletel K, Gaberšček S. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: From Genes to the Disease. Curr Genomics. 2011 Dec;12(8):576-88. doi: 10.2174/138920211798120763. PMID: 22654557; PMCID: PMC3271310.