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Can Thyroid Problems Weaken Your Immune System

Treating An Underactive Thyroid

What is Thyroid Disease? (HealthSketch)

Treatment for an underactive thyroid involves taking daily hormone replacement tablets, called levothyroxine, to raise your thyroxine levels. You’ll usually need treatment for the rest of your life. However, with proper treatment, you should be able to lead a normal, healthy life.

If an underactive thyroid isn’t treated, it can lead to complications, including heart disease, goitre, pregnancy problems and a life-threatening condition called myxoedema coma .

Read more about treating an underactive thyroid and the complications of an underactive thyroid

How Does Eating Diet And Nutrition Affect Hashimotos Disease

The thyroid uses iodine, a mineral in some foods, to make thyroid hormones. However, if you have Hashimotos disease or other types of autoimmune thyroid disorders, you may be sensitive to harmful side effects from iodine. Eating foods that have large amounts of iodinesuch as kelp, dulse, or other kinds of seaweed, and certain iodine-rich medicinesmay cause hypothyroidism or make it worse. Taking iodine supplements can have the same effect.

Talk with members of your health care team about

  • what foods and beverages to limit or avoid
  • whether you take iodine supplements
  • any cough syrups you take that may contain iodine

However, if you are pregnant, you need to take enough iodine because the baby gets iodine from your diet. Too much iodine can cause problems as well, such as a goiter in the baby. If you are pregnant, talk with your doctor about how much iodine you need.

Researchers are looking at other ways in which diet and supplementssuch as vitamin D and seleniummay affect Hashimotos disease.2 However, no specific guidance is currently available.3

What Are The Complications Of Hashimotos Disease

Many people with Hashimotos disease develop hypothyroidism. Untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to several health problems, including5

  • dry skin or dry, thinning hair
  • heavy or irregular menstrual periods or fertility problems
  • slowed heart rate

Hashimotos disease causes your thyroid to become damaged. Most people with Hashimotos disease develop hypothyroidism. Rarely, early in the course of the disease, thyroid damage may lead to the release of too much thyroid hormone into your blood, causing symptoms of hyperthyroidism.3

Your thyroid may get larger and cause the front of the neck to look swollen. The enlarged thyroid, called a goiter, may create a feeling of fullness in your throat, though it is usually not painful. After many years, or even decades, damage to the thyroid may cause the gland to shrink and the goiter to disappear.

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Immunologic View On Epigenetic Factors Associated With Gd

As mentioned above, concordance of GD in monozygotic twins is 75%, indicating that epigenetic modifications have an important role in GD. A significant impact of epigenetic modifications has been described in patients with PIDs. Indeed, a recent in-depth analysis of epigenetic modifications in two monozygotic twins discordant for antibody deficiency showed a gain in DNA methylation of several genes critically involved in B cell function in the twin with antibody deficiency .

In general, epigenetic changes can either intensify or reduce gene expression, depending on the number and location of the added methyl groups. This process is executed by histone methyltransferases, which use S-adenosyl-methionine to add up to three methyl groups on lysine or arginine residues . In patients with GD, one report found an interaction between a non-coding homozygous SNP in intron 1 of the TSH-receptor gene in human thymus cells associated with reduced TSH-R expression and histone methylation patterns that could be influenced by the addition of IFN- to cell cultures . This mechanism could expedite the release of auto-reactive T cells from central tolerance. Especially in the case of the TSH-receptor gene, this leads to diminished apoptosis of autoreactive T cells in the thymus .

What Happens If I Have Hypothyroidism During Pregnancy

The Adrenal

For pregnant women, there is a different thyroid stimulating hormone goal. If your TSH level is not at goal, your provider will likely offer you treatment with synthetic thyroid hormone to protect the safety of your pregnancy and your baby.

Untreated hypothyroidism during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth. Or it may cause a dangerous rise in blood pressure in late pregnancy . Untreated hypothyroidism can also affect your babys growth and brain development. Your providers will work with you to make sure your hypothyroidism is under control during your pregnancy.

Hypothyroidism during pregnancy is not common. But sometimes symptoms of hypothyroidism can be overlooked during pregnancy, with its fatigue and weight gain. Let your providers know right away if you notice any hypothyroidism symptoms, or feel like youre developing a goiter.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

In most cases, hypothyroidism can remain well controlled as long as you take your daily medication and get blood tests to adjust the dosage as instructed by your healthcare provider. Eating healthy and getting enough exercise can help you live a long, healthy life with the condition. Your healthcare providers can tell you what steps to take to feel better along the way.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/11/2020.


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Who Is Most Likely To Develop Hashimotos Disease

Hashimotos disease:

  • Is more common in women than men.
  • Commonly appears between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Tends to run in families .
  • Is more likely to develop in people who have other autoimmune diseases, like certain liver conditions, B12 deficiency, gluten sensitivity, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, lupus and Addisons disease .

Who Is At Risk For Hashimotos Thyroiditis

Things that may make it more likely to you for to get Hashimotos thyroiditis are:

  • Being a woman. Women are about 7 times more likely to have the disease. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis sometimes begins during pregnancy.
  • Middle age. Most cases happen between 40 to 60 years of age. But it has been seen in younger people.
  • Heredity. The disease tends to run in families. But no gene has been found that carries it.
  • Autoimmune diseases. These health problems raise a persons risk. Some examples are rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. Having this type of thyroiditis puts you at higher risk for other autoimmune illnesses.

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It May Make You More Susceptible To Viruses

While alcohol may make you feel sleepy, it can actually reduce the amount of quality sleep you get each night. According to a 2018 study published in JMIR Mental Health, individuals with low alcohol consumption reduced their sleep-induced physiological recovery by 9.3%, individuals with moderate alcohol consumption reduced recovery by 24%, and those with high alcohol intakesmore than one drink a day for women or more than two drinks per day for menreduced recovery by 39.2%.

Unfortunately, over time, this can lead to serious immune health issues. A 2017 study conducted by researchers in the University of Washington Health Sciences department and UW Medicine found that, among 11 pairs of identical twins, those who slept for fewer hours had a less robust immune system than those who slept more.

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Could Your Thyroid Problem Actually Be An Autoimmune Disease

Symptoms of Thyroid Problems

The American Thyroid Association estimates more than 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disorder. Of these disorders, Hashimotos thyroiditis is one of the most common, believed to be the leading cause of primary hypothyroidism in North America. But it may surprise you to learn that Hashimotos thyroiditis, also known as chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, is actually an autoimmune disease, like type-1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.

An autoimmune disorder causes your immune system which usually fights off infections to attack otherwise helpful parts of your body. In the case of Hashimotos thyroiditis, your immune system attacks your thyroid, which can cause inflammation and lead to an underactive thyroid gland.

Hashimotos most commonly affects older women, though it can strike either sex at any age. Risk factors include prior autoimmune diseases or a family history of thyroid problems.

The symptoms for Hashimotos are often vague and easily confused with other health problems. They include:

  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, especially in your shoulders and hips
  • Pain and stiffness in your joints and swelling in your knees or the small joints in your hands and feet
  • Muscle weakness, especially in your lower extremities
  • Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding
  • Depression

Fortunately, Hashimotos can typically be treated fairly easily with a daily pill to maintain proper thyroid hormone levels.

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Diagnosing An Underactive Thyroid

It’s very important that an underactive thyroid is diagnosed as soon as possible.

Low levels of thyroid-producing hormones, such as triiodothyronine and thyroxine , can change the way the body processes fat.

  • are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • have just given birth
  • have another health condition, such as heart disease, which may complicate your medication
  • are taking a medication known to cause a reduction in thyroid hormones, such as amiodarone or lithium

Tips For Better Sleep With Thyroid Issues

People with thyroid disease who experience sleep loss or disturbances may find relief by taking certain measures.

For many, finding the right bedroom temperature is key. Many experts agree that 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal sleep temperature for most people. However, those with thyroid disease may feel differently, as hyperthyroidism can cause night sweats and hypothyroidism can decrease your tolerance to the cold. The range of 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is considered reasonable, and you may find your preferred temperature falls outside this range if you live with thyroid disease.

Practicing good sleep hygiene can also improve your sleep quality whether or not you have a thyroid condition. Sleep hygiene refers to practices and habits that promote consistent, uninterrupted and restorative sleep. These include going to bed and waking up at the same times , avoiding electronic devices for up to an hour before bed, and winding down in the evening with soft music, light stretching, and other relaxing activities.

A healthy diet is also crucial for sleep hygiene. Heavy meals leading up to bedtime can be disruptive to sleep, so its better to opt for light snacks instead. People with thyroid issues should pay particular attention to their iodine intake, as too much or too little iodine in ones diet can affect thyroid activity. You may also want to avoid caffeine and alcohol in the hours before bed, as both of these substances can disrupt sleep.

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What Is Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease, a type of adrenal insufficiency, affects the adrenal glands of the endocrine system. These glands make hormones, including cortisol and aldosterone, that help control many body functions, particularly those related to its response to stress. They affect blood pressure, fluid balance, heart function, the immune system, the body’s response to insulin, metabolism, and a person’s sense of alertness and well-being. In Addison’s disease, the adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol and also might not make enough aldosterone.

Signs and symptoms of Addison’s disease start slowly. They include tiredness, muscle weakness, appetite loss, or weight loss. Some people have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and low blood pressure, skin discoloration , irritability, depression, or irregular periods.

For about 1 in 4 people with Addison’s disease, symptoms don’t appear until they’re triggered by a stressful event, such as illness or an accident. These symptoms can be more severe and come on suddenly. This is called an addisonian crisis, or acute adrenal insufficiency. If this happens to your child, it’s important to get medical help immediately.

When doctors suspect Addison’s disease, they’ll run tests, including urine and blood tests, to diagnose it. The condition is treated with medicine to bring adrenal hormone levels back to normal.

It May Make You More Likely To Suffer From Allergy Symptoms

Factors that affect thyroid function. Girl

If you find yourself coughing and sneezing your way through allergy season, you may want to start limiting your wine intake. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern Denmark found that, among 5,870 Danish women studied, greater alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk of developing allergic rhinitis. Want to give your immune system a leg up? Check out these 30 Best Immune-Boosting Foods.

Eat This, Not That!

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From Overactive To Underactive

A person who has had hyperthyroidism should have his or her thyroid hormone levels checked on a regular basis. This is because most people who are treated for hyperthyroidism eventually develop hypothyroidism.The treatment causes the thyroid to become underactive. The symptoms include lethargy, unexpected weight gain, constipation and sensitivity to the cold. Underactivity is treated by hormone replacement with thyroxine tablets.This switch from overactive to underactive can seem like treatment simply replacing one condition with another, but underactivity is easily treated with hormone replacement without side effects, whereas untreated overactivity is a serious condition which invariably proves fatal if allowed to persist.

Will Thyroid Disease Affect My Baby

Learn about the treatment options for thyroid disorders while pregnant, and whether the condition will affect your pregnancy or baby.

If you suffer from a persistent thyroid problem, you may be wondering if you can have a successful pregnancy or if the medicine used to treat your condition will harm your unborn baby. Fortunately, most thyroid problems can treated safely, resulting in both a healthy mom and baby. Heres what you need to know about dealing with thyroid disorders during pregnancy.

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Who Is More Likely To Have Hashimotos Disease

Hashimotos disease is 4 to 10 times more common in women than men.2 Although the disease may occur in teens or young women, it more often develops in women ages 30 to 50.3 Your chance of developing Hashimotos disease increases if other family members have the disease.

You are more likely to develop Hashimotos disease if you have other autoimmune disorders, including4

How Is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed

Understanding Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

Your health care provider may use many tools to make a diagnosis:

  • A medical history, including asking about your symptoms
  • A physical exam
  • Imaging tests, such as a thyroid scan, ultrasound, or radioactive iodine uptake test. A radioactive iodine uptake test measures how much radioactive iodine your thyroid takes up from your blood after you swallow a small amount of it.

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Dont Do Starvation Diets

Fad diets are popular for their quick effectiveness, but theyre objectively terrible for your body in many ways. Not only are you likely to gain all the weight back the second you stop the diet, but youre also slowing down your metabolic rate and opening yourself up to thyroid issues.

According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, fasting causes your primary thyroid hormone that regulates metabolism to decrease efficiency by 53%. Many other thyroid hormones also saw a decrease in levels. In addition, cortisol levels leap up when you starve yourself, causing stress to you because it thinks your body is in danger. You may begin to retain a lot of fat as a result.

So dont do starvation diets no liquid cleanses, no super low-calorie days, nothing at all that could cause your body to believe it is starving.

Where The Immune System Goes Wrong

The main function of the immune system is to protect the body from infection-causing antigens and to destroy any such pathogens that do get in to prevent illness.

It does this by producing antibodiesproteins in blood that recognize specific antigens and combine with them. The process brings on symptoms we’re all familiar with, such as fever, fatigue, and inflammation.

In the case of an autoimmune disease, the immune system directs its efforts toward otherwise healthy tissues. When the thyroid becomes the focus of such a misguided attack, one of two things can happen:

  • The inflammation that results leads to chronic damage that impairs the thyroid’s ability to produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone .
  • The mistakenly-produced antibodies stimulate the thyroid to produce too much thyroid hormone .
  • Scientists aren’t certain why a person’s immune system would seem to turn against itself in this way. It’s thought that heredity may play a role for many people who develop autoimmune diseases, which in addition to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease include rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, among others.

    Another theory is that infection by a virus or bacterium triggers the response. This means, of course, that it’s important to do all you can to keep your immune system in peak working order if you’re just genetically predisposed to autoimmune thyroid disease, but haven’t been diagnosed.

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    What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Graves Disease

    These are the same for any kind of thyroid overactivity, irrespective of the cause. Common symptoms and signs include:

    • palpitations
    • a sensation of feeling hot and excessive sweating
    • weight loss although appetite is usually good
    • increased frequency of bowel movements
    • shaking of hands
    • a feeling of thirst and frequent urination
    • difficulty in sleeping, restlessness, agitation and a change of behaviour
    • periods may become irregular
    • shortness of breath, especially on exertion.

    There may also be related swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck causing difficulty in swallowing and breathing.

    Graves disease can affect the eyes. They may become swollen and red, sometimes becoming more prominent and in severe cases, there may be double vision and squinting. This is called Graves ophthalmopathy or thyroid eye disease. See the article on thyoid eye disease for further information.

    There may be specific skin changes affecting the front of the legs, where the skin looks red and swollen. This is called Graves dermopathy or pretibial myxedema.

    If left untreated, Graves disease can lead to heart failure.


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