Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland. In Hashimoto's, a person's immune system creates antibodies that cause damage to the thyroid gland. While doctors are not 100% sure about what causes Hashimoto's, they theorize that it may have something to do with genetics, bacteria, or a virus.
Who's at risk for Hashimoto's Disease?
While anyone can develop Hashimoto's, women are more at risk for developing the disease than men. The disease is often seen in middle age than at any other age. As mentioned before, genetics do play a role in someone being at risk for Hashimoto's. If you have a family member with this disease, or any other autoimmune disease, you may be at risk for Hashimoto's Disease.
Symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease
-Goiter on the front of the neck
-Muscle aches and weakness
It is important that you contact your doctor right away if you experience the above symptoms, and/or any of the following:
How is one diagnosed with Hashimoto's?
Your doctor will need to know your symptoms. After you tell your doctor your symptoms, he or she will order blood work in order to measure your thyroid levels. Other tests may consist of an antibody test and hormone test.
How is Hashimoto's treated?
Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, your doctor will figure out the best course of treatment for you. Typically, Hashimoto's is treated with synthetic thyroid hormones. Your doctor will carefully monitor you, as there are some risks in these hormone treatments. Too much thyroid hormone in the body can put you at risk for osteoporosis. Heart beat abnormalities is also a potential risk with these treatments.
A few years ago, after getting back in touch with my aunt, she told me that she has Hashimoto's. It put in perspective how important it is for us to know our family history. My mother (her sister) has thyroid issues as well. Because all of these autoimmune diseases run in my family, my doctor and I stay in contact to monitor my health situation. My aunt, from what I've heard, is doing well. She lives a normal life and takes care of her family.
Getting a diagnosis of Hashimoto's, or any other autoimmune disease, does not have to destroy your life. You have to go at your own pace, take your medication, and just be aware.
I want to continue to stress the importance of learning about autoimmune diseases. Even more important is knowing your family's medical history. I also encourage you to keep a record of your symptoms. There may be a war going on in our bodies, but that doesn't mean that we cannot control the internal chaos. Do what you can, and don't let anyone make you ashamed of your illness.