Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, meaning low level of thyroid hormones in the blood, in the world. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease in which antibodies start attacking the thyroid gland, mistakenly treating it like a foreign tissue. Due to cell damage, the gland is unable to produce sufficient thyroid hormone. It was one of the first diseases to be recognized as an autoimmune disorder. It is more common in women than in men.
Most of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in women are quite subtle and are thus often ignored. As this disease is most common in the 55-65 years age group, these symptoms are often attributed to the process of aging and can be incorrectly diagnosed. Patients who have mild Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis might not show any signs at all.
However, since this is a progressive disease which, in acute stages, can lead to heart problems and coma, it is best to be on the lookout for these symptoms:
- Fatigue and a general feeling of tiredness
- Modest amount of weight gain
- Dullness and depression
- Inability to tolerate changes in temperature, especially cold
- Excessive sleepiness that persists even after getting sufficient rest
- Coarse and dry hair
- Dryness of the skin and nails
- Inflammation of the thyroid gland
- High level of cholesterol
- Muscle cramps
- Tingling or pricking feeling, or the sensation of insects crawling on the skin
- Pains and aches for no apparent reason
- Decreased concentration
- Swelling, usually in the legs
- Difficulty swallowing
The symptoms usually worsen with the progression of the disease as increasingly lower levels of thyroid hormone interfere with the body’s ability to function normally. In advanced stages, symptoms include puffiness of the face especially around the eyes, drop in body temperature, slowing of the heart, accumulation of fluid around the heart and lungs, and slowing of the heart. If left untreated, it can even lead to heart failure and coma.
Most of these symptoms are very specific and are common to several health issues, making Hashimoto’s thyroiditis a little difficult to diagnose. Blood work to test the level of the thyroid hormones and antibodies, along with a physical examination of thyroid gland, can lead to a conclusive diagnosis. It can be treated quite easily with thyroid hormone replacement.