Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune condition that's characterised by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland, which leads to the thyroid becoming inflamed and underactive. The thyroid gland, which is located at the bottom of the neck, plays a vital role, as it produces hormones that support the body to carry out several key functions including temperature regulation and weight regulation.
Anyone can be affected by Hashimoto's disease, but it's not yet clear why the condition develops in some people. Women seem to be more susceptible to developing the condition than men, and there are other risk factors, including having a family history of Hashimoto's disease and already having another autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis or inflammatory bowel disease. Here's an overview of Hashimoto's disease:
Early symptoms of Hashimoto's disease include fatigue, weight gain, pale skin, joint pain and muscle weakness. As the condition progresses, you may also experience memory loss, and women with this condition can experience longer episodes of menstrual bleeding. These symptoms can have a negative effect on your quality of life and make it difficult to carry out daily tasks and keep with the demands of family life or work, and this can lead to some sufferers experiencing depression and anxiety.
Your GP will make their diagnosis by taking details of your symptoms and conducting a physical exam. They will take blood samples to check thyroid hormone levels, inflammatory markers and organ function. Blood tests can also determine if your immune system is producing antibodies, which is a key indicator that it's overactive and attacking your thyroid.
There's no cure for Hashimoto's disease, but treatment can make your symptoms more manageable and improve your quality of life. Your GP will prescribe synthetic thyroid hormones to bring your body back into balance, and you may also be prescribed an immunosuppressant. You will have to take this medication for the rest of your life, and your GP will have to monitor your thyroid hormone levels regularly to ensure you're receiving an optimal dose of synthetic hormones. If you're experiencing depression as a result of the limitations Hashimoto's disease has placed on you, your GP may prescribe antidepressants and they can also refer you to a counsellor for emotional support.
If you're experiencing the symptoms noted above, schedule an appointment with your GP to get a formal diagnosis and take the first steps toward getting your symptoms under control.