What are autoimmune thyroid diseases?

Autoimmune thyroid diseases, such as autoimmune thyroiditis, which is also known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, are conditions in which the immune system attacks the body’s own thyroid gland. The thyroid gland, which is a small gland at the front of the neck, becomes chronically inflamed and decreases production of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine and thyroxine. Because these hormones are used almost everywhere in the body, autoimmune thyroid diseases can have widespread, serious effects and many symptoms.

Autoimmune thyroid diseases are generally hereditary in origin, although environmental factors, such as infection, certain drugs, and iodine consumption, can play a role in their progression. Autoimmune thyroiditis is more common in women than in men, and it primarily affects people between 40 and 60 years of age. Like many autoimmune disorders, your chances of getting autoimmune thyroiditis are increased if you have other autoimmune disorders.

Often, mild autoimmune thyroiditis can be symptomless. In more serious cases, however, inflammation of the thyroid can lead to enlargement (goiter). Over time, the thyroid can suffer more damage, leading to symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), such as fatigue, weight gain, body aches, depression, and lethargy.

Autoimmune thyroiditis may not always require treatment. For those who do experience problematic symptoms, treatment is generally in the form of synthetic thyroid hormones. Generally, the disease is slow to progress and can remain stable for many years without complications.

While chronic autoimmune thyroid diseases are generally mild or even symptomless, they can progress to significant hypothyroidism. Seek prompt medical care for worrisome symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as depression or unexplained weight gain.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of autoimmune thyroid diseases?

In many cases, autoimmune thyroid diseases may be symptomless. Symptoms of chronic autoimmune thyroiditis are related to low levels of thyroid hormones, which can slow metabolism and affect many body systems.

Common symptoms of autoimmune thyroid diseases

You may experience autoimmune thyroid diseases symptoms daily or just once in a while, if at all. At times, any of t... Read more about autoimmune thyroid diseasessymptoms

CAUSES

What causes autoimmune thyroid diseases?

Autoimmune thyroid diseases arise when the body attacks its own thyroid gland. When the immune system develops antibodies to thyroid tissue, it treats the thyroid gland as an invader of the body. This causes inflammation of the thyroid gland, which can destroy thyroid tissue over time. The thyroid is responsible for creating two hormones, triiodothyronine and thyroxine. Low levels of these horm... Read more about autoimmune thyroid diseasescauses

TREATMENTS

How are autoimmune thyroid diseases treated?

Often, autoimmune thyroid diseases can be symptomless or may not require medical treatment. In cases in which symptoms become bothersome, autoimmune thyroiditis may be treated with a synthetic thyroid hormone, such as levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid). In some cases, autoimmune thyroid disease symptoms, such as goiter, may... Read more about autoimmune thyroid diseasestreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Allergies and the Immune System