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Hashimoto’s Disease – Hypo & Hyperthyroidism

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid gland. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck just below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid produces hormones that help regulate many functions in the body.

Hypothyroidism is a problem with your thyroid gland; Hashimoto’s is a problem with your immune system.
In Hashimoto’s– as in all autoimmune diseases– the immune system gets confused and mistakenly attacks a part of your own body, kind of the metabolic equivalent of “friendly fire”.

The diagnosis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may be made when patients present with symptoms of hypothyroidism, often accompanied by a goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland) on physical examination, and laboratory testing of hypothyroidism, which is an elevated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) with or without a low thyroid hormone (Free thyroxine [Free T4]) levels. TPO antibody, when measured, is usually elevated.

Occasionally, the disease may be diagnosed early, especially in people with a strong family history of thyroid disease. TPO antibody may be positive, but thyroid hormone levels may be normal or there may only be isolated mild elevation of serum TSH is seen. Symptoms of hypothyroidism may be absent.

Also called Hashimoto’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease, a disorder in which the immune system turns against the body’s own tissues. In people with Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks the thyroid. This can lead to hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid does not make enough hormones for the body’s needs. Located in the front of your neck, the thyroid gland makes hormones that control metabolism. This includes your heart rate and how quickly your body uses calories from the foods you eat.

Hashimoto’s symptoms may be mild at first or take years to develop. The first sign of the disease is often an enlarged thyroid, called a goiter. The goiter may cause the front of your neck to look swollen. A large goiter may make swallowing difficult. Other symptoms of an under active thyroid due to Hashimoto’s may include:

  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Paleness or puffiness of the face
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Constipation
  • Inability to get warm
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Hair loss or thinning, brittle hair
  • Irregular or heavy menstrual periods
  • Depression
  • Slowed heart rate

Because the symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroid may be similar to those for other medical conditions, it is important to see your doctor for a diagnosis.

Treatments for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

People with autoimmune disorders, such as Hashimoto’s find low-dose naltrexone to be a promising treatment option. Many people living with the condition have found that LDN greatly improves symptoms, including aches, lethargy, fatigue, and pain.  While LDN is not a cure for Hashimoto’s, it can greatly relieve symptoms.

There is no cure for Hashimoto’s, but replacing hormones with medication can regulate hormone levels and restore your normal metabolism. The pills are available in several different strengths. The exact dose your doctor prescribes will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Severity of hypothyroidism
  • Other health problems
  • Other medicines that may interact with synthetic thyroid hormones

Once you start treatment, your doctor will order a lab test called a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test to monitor thyroid function and help ensure you are getting the right dose. Because thyroid hormones act very slowly in the body, it may take a few months for symptoms to go away and your goiter to shrink. However, large goiters that do not improve may make it necessary to remove the thyroid gland.

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