What is Autoimmune Thyroiditis?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2018
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Autoimmune thyroiditis is also called Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or disease. It is a fairly rare autoimmune disease where the body perceives the thyroid gland, and to some extent thyroid hormone as foreign. The presence of gland and hormone thus can be said to create autoimmune response, where the body attacks both. This may lead ultimately to increased size in the gland, called goiter, and inability for the gland to produce adequate thyroid hormone for the body.

Hypothyroidism is not necessarily autoimmune thyroiditis, but the autoimmune condition will cause hypothyroidism eventually. Many people may not know they have this condition and they might go for years without being diagnosed. This is unfortunate because failure to diagnose early can prove problematic. Studies show that supplementation with thyroid hormone early may help arrest symptoms and prevent later symptoms like goiter and total thyroid gland failure from developing. It’s suggested by some doctors that people presenting with low normal thyroid levels ought to be more extensively tested for autoimmune thyroiditis.


Early symptoms indicating such tests could be required include fatigue, and lack of motivation. At the same time or later people might have symptoms like pale skin, weight gain, heavy menstrual periods, aching muscles, aches in the legs and feet, changes to a depressed mood, and puffiness in the face. These symptoms typically occur long before goiter would develop, and they definitely warrant a doctor’s visit. If the symptoms are ignored, seeing a specialist, like an endocrinologist could be useful.

Doctors usually diagnose autoimmune thyroiditis by performing a few more blood tests. These might include a blood cholesterol test, since cholesterol counts may be elevated. More importantly, doctors evaluate possible presence of this condition by looking at thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which may be higher because the thyroid gland is straining to produce adequate thyroid, and by performing blood tests to find antibodies for thyroid peroxidase, which would indicate the body is fighting against the thyroid gland.

The most common treatment for this condition is to give thyroid replacement hormone, called levothyroxine. An important factor people should know about taking this medication is many medical professionals now feel there is a difference between generic and brand name thyroid, called Synthroid®. Reputable medical professionals advise against changing from brand to brand, since levothyroxine is notoriously unstable. There are doctors that argue to the contrary, but in greater number, many physicians feel this is one medication that is perhaps not “the same as generic,” and where patients may feel an appreciable difference if they switch from generic to name brand.

People are advised to eat a diet with lower soy. While many doctors feel it’s unnecessary to avoid soy completely, patients should definitely discuss a high soy diet with doctors, as this may have some effect on treatment. Patients really must comply with treatment, too. Failure to take daily thyroid can result in all manner of complications including development of goiter, risk for heart disease, greater risk for serious depression, lowered interest in sexual activity, higher incidence of birth defects for children of moms with untreated Hashimoto’s, and development of fatal conditions.

Most people will require lifelong thyroid replacement medication if they have autoimmune thyroiditis. Treatment can fortunately prevent many of the symptoms that can complicate this disease. With it, most people live a very normal and full life.



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Post 1

I believe there to be a relationship between eating gluten and Hashi's. Since going gluten-free, I have seen a huge improvement in my symptoms and am currently trying to manage it through the diet alone.

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