Hashimoto's Disease


Fact: An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease

What is Hashimoto's Disease?
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. It also is called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (theye-royd-EYET-uhss). The thyroid is a small gland in the front of the neck. The thyroid makes hormones called T3 and T4 that regulate how the body uses energy. Thyroid hormone levels are controlled by the pituitary, which is a pea-sized gland in the brain. It makes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which triggers the thyroid to make thyroid hormone.

With Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system makes antibodiesthat damage thyroid cells and interfere with their ability to make thyroid hormone. Over time, thyroid damage can cause thyroid hormone levels to be too low. This is called an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism (heye-poh-THEYE-royd-ism). An underactive thyroid causes every function of the body to slow down, such as heart rate, brain function, and the rate your body turns food into energy. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of an underactive thyroid. It is closely related to Graves’ disease, another autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid.

What causes Hashimoto's Disease?
Many factors are thought to play a role in getting Hashimoto’s disease. These include:

  • Genes. Some people are prone to Hashimoto’s disease because of their genes. Researchers are working to find the gene or genes involved.
  • Gender. Sex hormones also might play a role. This may help to explain why Hashimoto’s disease affects more women than men.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnancy affects the thyroid. Some women have thyroid problems after having a baby, which usually go away. But about 20 percent of these women develop Hashimoto’s disease in later years. This suggests that pregnancy might trigger thyroid disease in some women.
  • Too much iodine and some drugs may trigger the onset of thyroid disease in people prone to getting it.
  • Radiation exposure has been shown to bring on autoimmune thyroid disease. This includes radiation from the atomic bomb in Japan, the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, and radiation treatment of Hodgkin’s disease (a type of blood cancer).
Symptoms of Hashimotos
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Pale, puffy face
  • Feeling cold
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Constipation
  • Dry, thinning hair
  • Heavy menstrual flow or irregular periods
  • Depression
  • A slowed heart rate
  • Problems getting pregnant
Are there any related disorders?

  • Vitiligo (vit-ihl-EYE-goh) — a disease that destroys the cells that give your skin its color
  • Rheumatoid arthritis  — a disease that affects the lining of the joints throughout the body
  • Addison’s disease — a disease that affects the adrenal glands, which make hormones that help your body respond to stress and regulate your blood pressure and water and salt balance
  • Type 1 diabetes — a disease that causes blood sugar levels to be too high
  • Graves’ disease — a disease that causes the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone
  • Pernicious (pur-NISH-uhss) anemia — a disease that keeps your body from absorbing vitamin B12 and making enough healthy red blood cells
  • Lupus — a disease that can damage many parts of the body, such as the joints, skin, blood vessels, and other organs

The following organizations and/or websites offer additional information and education about Hashimoto's Disease. They are listed in Alphabetical order without any preference or prejudice. Listing these organizations is not a recommendation or referral in any regard for seeking treatment or consultation or support for treatment.

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc.
American Thyroid Association
National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases
Information Service, NIDDK, NIH, DHHS
New York Thyroid Center
The Hormone Foundation


**Information from WomensHealth.gov**