Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an autoimmune condition that involves chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. Eventually, the thyroid gland becomes less able to produce thyroid hormones, leading to hypothyroidism.
Causes and Risk Factors for Hashimoto’s Disease
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is predominantly a genetic condition. Thyroiditis, more generally, is often caused by antibodies that attack the thyroid. Thyroiditis may also be caused by viral or bacterial infection or medications (such as interferon and amiodarone) that could damage thyroid cells.
Signs and Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis does not cause any signs or symptoms unique to itself. Instead, this condition typically progresses slowly over years, and may eventually damage cells leading to hypothyroidism, which could cause symptoms that include:
- Weight gain
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Reduced exercise tolerance
- Muscle aches
- Heavy or irregular menses
Occasionally, the chronic inflammation may also result in a goiter (enlarged thyroid).
Diagnosis and Treatment of Hashimoto’s Diseases
If a patient has symptoms of hypothyroidism, test results indicating hypothyroidism, or possibly a goiter link to the goter/multinodular goiter page found during a physical exam, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may be diagnosed. Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies are also typically elevated. It is possible the condition could be found early—even without all these factors—if there is a strong history of thyroid disease in the patient’s family.
Some patients may not require treatment, such as those with elevated TPO antibodies whose thyroid function tests are normal. However the majority of patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis will need lifelong management with an oral thyroid hormone replacement medication called levothyroxine, which helps relieve the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Regular testing may be required to determine the best dosage, after which most patients only need testing once a year.
Mount Sinai Experts Can Help
Patients with diseases of the thyroid and parathyroid come to the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City from all over the world. We provide comprehensive, state-of-the-art care based on the latest innovations in the field. Our surgeons are internationally recognized as experts who excel both in the academic arena and in their own clinical practices.