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What Happens When Your Immune System Attacks Your Thyroid

Symptoms Of Hashimotos Disease

Understanding Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

Hashimotos disease progresses very slowly over many years, so the symptoms may go unnoticed. The symptoms and signs vary depending on individual factors including the severity of the condition, but may include:

  • Unrelenting fatigue
  • Stiff and tender joints, particularly in the hands, feet and knees
  • Cognitive changes, such as depression or forgetfulness
  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland
  • In women, heavy menstrual bleeding .

Sometimes Hashimotos disease does not cause any noticeable symptoms. The condition may be discovered during investigations for other, perhaps unrelated, medical problems.

How Does My Thyroid Work

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ located in the front of your neck just under the voice box . Picture the middle of the butterflys body centered on your neck, with the wings hugging around your windpipe . The main job of the thyroid is to control your metabolism. Metabolism is the process that your body uses to transform food to energy your body uses to function. The thyroid creates the hormones T4 and T3 to control your metabolism. These hormones work throughout the body to tell the bodys cells how much energy to use. They control your body temperature and heart rate.

When your thyroid works correctly, its constantly making hormones, releasing them and then making new hormones to replace whats been used. This keeps your metabolism functioning and all of your bodys systems in check. The amount of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is located in the center of the skull below the brain. When the pituitary gland senses either a lack of thyroid hormone or too much, it adjusts its own hormone and sends it to the thyroid to balance out the amounts.

If the amount of thyroid hormones is too high or too low , the entire body is impacted.

What Causes Thyroid Eye Disease

Thyroid eye disease is caused because the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy muscle and fat tissue around the eyes. Normally, the immune system attacks foreign organisms and abnormal cells such as cancer cells in the body.

In Graves disease, the immune system develops antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. In Graves eye disease, the antibodies attack the tissue around the eyes, likely because these tissues contain proteins that appear similar to the proteins in the thyroid gland.

Women are five times more likely than men to be affected by thyroid eye disease, possibly because women are more prone to autoimmune disorders. Smoking, including secondhand smoke, increases the risk for developing thyroid eye disease with more severe consequences.

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So How Do I Know If I Am Affected

First, lets talk about clinical hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormone is an essential regulator of cellular metabolism, so when levels are low, there are consequences.; In this circumstance, people will experience a number of symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain, dry skin and thinning hair, constipation, cold intolerance, difficulty concentrating, aches and pains, and even heart problems and anemia. Since many of these symptoms are nonspecific and may occur in many different situations, one must suspect possible thyroid disease and proceed with testing. As noted above, the physical examination of the thyroid gland is usually normal, but there are several other subtle physical signs that a physician can detect to increase suspicion.

Thyroid function blood testing is diagnostic: the TSH will be elevated and the circulating thyroid hormones T4 and/or T3 will be depressed. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and regulates thyroid hormone production. When T4 or T3 levels are low, the pituitary produces more TSH in order to stimulate the thyroid to produce more hormone.

In subclinical hypothyroidism, the TSH rises, but the thyroid gland is able to respond by producing more T4 and T3.; In this circumstance, the TSH is elevated, yet the T4 and T3 are normal.

Are There Any Foods I Can Eat To Help My Hypothyroidism

Thyroid Disease & Problems: Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment

Most foods in western diets contain iodine, so you do not have to worry about your diet. Iodine is a mineral that helps your thyroid produce hormones. One idea is that if you have low levels of thyroid hormone, eating foods rich in iodine could help increase your hormone levels. The most reliable way to increase your hormone levels is with a prescription medication from your healthcare provider. Do not try any new diets without talking to your provider first. Its important to always have a conversation before starting a new diet, especially if you have a medical condition like hypothyroidism.

Foods that are high in iodine include:

  • Eggs.
  • Edible seaweed.
  • Iodized salt.

Work with your healthcare provider or a nutritionist to craft a meal plan. Your food is your fuel. Making sure you are eating foods that will help your body, along with taking your medications as instructed by your healthcare provider, can keep you healthy over time. People with thyroid condition should not consume large amounts of iodine because the effect may be paradoxical .

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Follow A Healthy Diet

It’s likely you’ve heard these tips for eating well, but they bear repeatingand followingespecially in this context:

  • Eat as few processed foods as possible.
  • Steer clear of polyunsaturated vegetable oils and products made from them, including margarine. When in doubt, olive oil is a healthy fat for cooking and to use in salad dressings.
  • Replace high-glycemic carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, and sugar-laden foods with whole grains and no-sugar-added snacks and beverages.
  • Limit your intake of saturated fat.
  • Eat plenty of fish that’s rich in omega-3 fats such as mackerel, wild salmon, herring, tuna , and halibut. The American Heart Association recommends most people eat at least two 3.5 ounce servings of per week.
  • Fill your plate at meals and snacks with fresh whole fruits and vegetables, including those that are being studied for their potential to directly augment the immune system, including garlic, mushrooms , broccoli, cabbage, and kale. Be careful not to overdo cruciferous veggies, however.
  • Limit saturated fats and sugars to 10 percent of your total calories each day.

Hashimotos Syndrome Hormone Replacement Therapy

At this time, there is no permanent cure for Hashimotos syndrome. However, hormone replacement therapy can help regulate hormone levels and help your biological functions and metabolism return to normal.

Most commonly, doctors will treat Hashimotos syndrome with hormone replacement therapy. This therapy typically includes the hormone replacement levothyroxine, which is identical to the hormone thyroxine which is normally produced by your thyroid gland.

Initially, your doctor may choose to retest your TSH level every few weeks after your hormone replacement therapy begins to ensure the right dosage. If you have severe hypothyroidism or a heart condition, your doctor may start you with a small dose of hormone replacement medication and will gradually increase the dose over time to give your heart time to adjust to your increased metabolism.

Since hormones regularly fluctuate, it will be important to routinely visit your doctor about every 12 months to check your TSH levels. This will ensure your dosage is still conducive to your current condition.

In addition, your doctor may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory like LDN. Anti-inflammatories like low-dose naltrexone help manage inflammation associated with Hashimotos syndrome.

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When The Immune System Attacks Your Thyroid

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid gland, 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. These immune cells can cause hypothyroidism , a goiter , or both. Eventually, the thyroiditis process can even destroy your entire thyroid, if left undetected or untreated.

In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, large amounts of damaged immune cells invade the thyroid. These immune cells are called lymphocytes; this is where Hashimoto’s other namechronic lymphocytic thyroiditisis derived from.

When these lymphocytes enter the thyroid, they destroy the cells, tissue, and blood vessels within the gland. The process of destroying the thyroid gland is a slow one, which is why many people who have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis go many years without any noticeable symptoms. You can read more about this in our article about the symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Because the thyroid is essentially coming under attack from invading cells, it isn’t able to produce as much thyroid hormone as it normally would. Eventually, this causes hypothyroidism. And in extreme cases, the immune cells can cause the thyroid to become enlarged and inflamed to the point that it produces a visible mass in the necka goiter.

How Inflammation Affects Thyroid Function

The Basics: Hashimoto’s Disease | WebMD
  • Inflammation of the thyroid, also known as thyroiditis, can lead to hypothyroidism. This inflammation can cause thyroid hormone to leak into the bloodstream.
  • Michael Ruscio, Doctor of Natural Medicine and author of;Healthy Gut, Healthy You,;says that inflammation can interfere with the conversion of the hormone T4 into T3. It can also cause elevations in rT3 , which is thought to be released when you are ill, and can block the T3 hormone from working.
  • Inflammation can also cause issues with your mood; for example, it can interfere with your neurotransmitters , causing mood issues. As a result, many patients with hypothyroidism also suffer from depression caused by a combination of inflammation and hormonal imbalances.
  • A study in JAMA Psychiatry found that C-reactive protein is associated with depression and psychological distress.

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How Are Hypothyroidism And Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Diagnosed

To diagnose hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, doctors ask about a person’s symptoms, do an exam, and order blood tests. The tests measure:

  • Thyroid hormone levels, particularly thyroxine and thyroid-stimulating hormone . TSH is a hormone made in the . More TSH is released into the blood when the brain and pituitary sense that the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood are too low. TSH stimulates the thyroid to work harder to make more thyroid hormone.
  • Some antibodies . High levels of these antibodies in the blood are a sign that the gland is being attack by the immune system in Hashimoto’s. The two antibodies commonly measured are thyroglobulin antibodies and thyroid peroxidase antibodies .

Strategies For Supporting Your Body’s Defenses

    Dr.;Danielle;Weiss is the founder of;Center for Hormonal Health and Well-Being, a personalized, proactive, patient-centered medical practice with a unique focus on integrative endocrinology. She enjoys giving lectures and writing articles for both the lay public and medical audiences. Dr. Weiss is Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.;

    Like all autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’;disease result when the immune system attacks a healthy part of the bodyin these cases, the thyroid gland.

    The same mechanisms your body would call on to prevent infection by a virus, bacterium, or another pathogen are at play with these autoimmune thyroid conditions, meaning your defenses against general illness, like the common cold, are compromised.

    In considering the overall management of your condition, it’s important to support your immune system to stay as strong as possible.

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    What Are The Treatments For Hypothyroidism

    The treatment for hypothyroidism is medicine to replace the hormone that your own thyroid can no longer make. About 6 to 8 weeks after you start taking the medicine, you will get a blood test to check your thyroid hormone level. Your health care provider will adjust your dose if needed. Each time your dose is adjusted, you’ll have another blood test. Once you find the right dose, you will probably get a blood test in 6 months. After that, you will need the test once a year.

    If you take your medicine according to the instructions, you usually should be able to control the hypothyroidism. You should never stop taking your medicine without talking with your health care provider first.

    If you have Hashimoto’s disease or other types of autoimmune thyroid disorders, you may be sensitive to harmful side effects from iodine. Talk to your health care provider about which foods, supplements, and medicines you need to avoid.

    Women need more iodine when they are pregnant because the baby gets iodine from the mother’s diet. If you are pregnant, talk with your health care provider about how much iodine you need.

    NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

    How Is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Treated

    How can you feel that your thyroid gland doesnt produce ...

    Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:

    • Your age, overall health, and medical history
    • How sick you are
    • How well you handle certain medicines, treatments, or therapies
    • If your condition is expected to get worse
    • Your opinion or preference

    You will not need treatment if your thyroid hormone levels are normal. But Hashimoto’s thyroiditis often looks like an underactive thyroid gland. If so, it can be treated with medicine. The medicine replaces lost thyroid hormone. That should stop your symptoms. It can also ease a goiter if you have one. A goiter can cause problems like pain or trouble swallowing, breathing, or speaking. If these symptoms don’t get better, you may need surgery to remove the goiter.

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    Autoimmune Disease: Why Is My Immune System Attacking Itself

    Autoimmune disease affects 23.5 million Americans, and nearly 80 percent of those are women. If youre one of the millions of women affected by this group of diseases, which includes lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease, you may be wondering why your immune system is attacking itself.

    Ana-Maria Orbai, M.D., M.H.S., is a rheumatologist at the;Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Rheumatologists specialize in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal diseases and autoimmune conditions . Orbai explains several theories researchers have about what might cause autoimmune disease, including infection, tissue damage and genetics.;

    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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    What Causes Hypothyroidism In Pregnancy

    In most cases, women with hypothyroidism during pregnancy have Hashimotos disease. This autoimmune disease causes the bodys immune system to attack and damage the thyroid. When that happens, the thyroid cant produce and release high enough levels of thyroid hormones, impacting the entire body. Pregnant women with hypothyroidism may feel very tired, have a hard time dealing with cold temperatures and experience muscles cramps.

    Thyroid hormones are important to your babys development while in the womb. These hormones help develop the brain and nervous system. If you have hypothyroidism, its important to control your thyroid levels during pregnancy. If your baby doesnt get enough thyroid hormone during development, the brain may not develop correctly and there could be issues later. Untreated or insufficiently treated hypothyroidism during pregnancy may lead to complications like miscarriage or preterm labor.

    Causes Of Hashimotos Syndrome

    What is Gravesâ disease?

    While the exact cause of Hashimotos Syndrome is not known, it is thought that several factors may play a role in the development of this disease, including:

    • It often affects people who have family members with thyroid disorders or autoimmune diseases. This suggests that there may be a genetic component to Hashimotos syndrome.
    • Autoimmune Disorder.;Individuals who have other autoimmune disorders such as Addisons disease, autoimmune hepatitis, celiac disease, lupus, type 1 diabetes, pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögrens syndrome, and vitiligo have been linked to Hashimotos syndrome.
    • Hashimotos syndrome affects as many as 7-8X more women than men, which suggests that sex hormones may play a role in its occurrence.
    • While the syndrome can occur even in teenage years or early adulthood, it more commonly occurs in middle-aged patients.
    • Radiation Exposure.;Individuals who have been exposed to excessive levels of radiation may be at increased risk of Hashimotos syndrome.

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    What Are The Kinds Of Autoimmune Thyroid Disorders

    Autoimmune thyroid disorders can cause hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone. Graves disease is the most common kind of autoimmune hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Hashimoto thyroiditis is the most common kind of autoimmune hypothyroidism.

    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

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