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Hashimoto's disease

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What is Hashimoto's disease?

Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune condition. In Hashimoto's disease, your body's immune system attacks your thyroid gland, preventing it from producing enough thyroid hormones.

Your thyroid gland is a bow-shaped gland near the base of your throat. This gland produces thyroid hormones. These hormones influence important body processes such as temperature, energy levels and growth.

Thyroid hormones are important for your metabolism. Low thyroid hormone levels may cause a range of symptoms, such as tiredness, weight gain and intolerance to cold temperatures.

Your thyroid gland may become noticeably larger - this is called a goitre. Or it may shrink. Lumps or nodules may also develop in your thyroid gland.

What are the symptoms of Hashimoto's disease?

Hashimoto's disease can gradually cause a lack of thyroid hormones, which is known as hypothyroidism. The symptoms might be mild or they might be severe.

They include:

  • tiredness and needing more sleep than usual
  • being unable to stand the cold
  • depression or low mood
  • inability to concentrate
  • weight gain
  • constipation
  • pain in the muscles
  • dry skin
  • thin hair
  • brittle nails
  • weak or aching muscles
  • poor memory
  • enlarged thyroid
  • low libido (in men or women)

What causes Hashimoto's disease?

The cause of Hashimoto's disease is unknown. The condition may run in families.

How is Hashimoto's disease diagnosed?

If you think you have symptoms of hypothyroidism, see your doctor. They will examine you and probably run blood tests, including testing your hormone levels.

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How is Hashimoto's disease treated?

While there is no cure for Hashimoto's disease, hypothyroidism itself can be treated.

You may need thyroid hormone replacement treatment for life. You will probably need to have your thyroid hormone levels checked regularly so that your doctor can adjust the treatment if necessary.

Complications of Hashimoto's disease

There is no known way to prevent Hashimoto’s disease.

Can Hashimoto’s disease be prevented?

If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to problems including goitre (an increase in the size of the thyroid gland), heart problems, or mental health problems. Occasionally, it is life-threatening.

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Last reviewed: February 2020

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