Commonly referred to as Hashimoto’s Disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland. It is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the United States and is significantly more prevalent in women than in men. Doctors are unsure what exactly causes Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but they do know that there are effective treatment options available and patients with the autoimmune disorder can live normal, active lives.
What is Hashimoto’s?
Hashimoto’s disease is a condition in which the body produces thyroid antibodies. These antibodies attack the neck gland, eventually causing long-term damage and abnormal function. The disease will progress into hypothyroidism—a condition where the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone, which is when patients typically begin feeling symptoms and/or require treatment.
When your doctor suspects you may have a thyroid condition, he/she will most likely test the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood first. This test determines whether or not a patient has hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism and is the most commonly performed function test. If Hashimoto’s is suspected, an antithyroid peroxidase antibody blood test (anti-TPO) may also be performed. This test will let your doctor know if you have thyroid antibodies present in your blood, thus Hashimoto’s disease. It is not usually until a patient’s TSH level is affected, though, that treatment for Hashimoto’s is required.
Signs and Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Many people living with Hashimoto’s will not develop symptoms, or even know they have the disease unless it progresses into hypothyroidism or causes an enlarged thyroid, known as goiter. Once hypothyroidism occurs, patients may experience any number of the following common symptoms:
- Sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Weight gain
- Pale, dry skin
- Muscle aches
- Joint discomfort
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
Please keep in mind that this is just a sampling of some of the most common symptoms and not an all-inclusive list. Every patient is unique and may experience symptoms differently. Please discuss any concerns you have with your physician.
An enlarged thyroid is also fairly common in Hashimoto’s patients, but the extent of the enlargement will vary from one patient to the next. For some, a particularly large goiter may cause symptoms such as:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hoarse voice
- Tightness in throat
- Swelling and/or lump at base of neck
- Treatment for Hashimoto’s Disease
Patients with Hashimoto’s disease that has not yet advanced to hypothyroidism generally do not require treatment. Once a patient develops hypothyroidism, the low production of thyroid hormone is regulated with a hormone replacement medication prescribed by an endocrinologist.
Patients experiencing pain or discomfort caused by a goiter should seek the help of an experienced thyroid surgeon to see if a minimally invasive surgery is right for them. If a thyroid becomes so enlarged as to cause symptoms and inhibit daily activity, it is possible that a thyroidectomy would be recommended. A thyroidectomy, removal of the thyroid gland, is an effective procedure for eliminating the discomfort caused by goiter and getting a patient back to normal.
The expert surgeons at the Los Angeles Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence are highly regarded for their minimally invasive thyroidectomy techniques. They use the smallest incision possible (less than one-inch if the size of the thyroid allows) to remove the enlarged gland. Using the small incision and endoscopic technology, they are able to keep the surgical trauma to the patient, as well as scarring, to a minimum. A goiter that is too large for the small incision will require a traditional thyroidectomy, a procedure for which our surgeons are also highly regarded. Our team of surgeons uses plastic surgery techniques to close up the incisions, no matter the procedure, to ensure the patient is satisfied with the appearance of the incision site upon healing.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis FAQs
Below are the answers to some of the questions our physicians are asked frequently about Hashimoto’s disease.
Q: How do I know if I have Hashimoto’s?
A: The only way to diagnose Hashimoto’s disease is through blood testing. Your endocrinologist can test your levels of TSH and anti-TPO to diagnose the condition. If you are concerned about your thyroid health, or suspect you may be living with a thyroid condition, visit your doctor for testing.
Q: Who should perform a thyroidectomy?
A: A thyroidectomy should only be performed by a board-certified head and neck surgeon who specializes in thyroid procedures. The board-certified head and neck surgeons at the Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence are all highly regarded in the field for their minimally invasive thyroid surgery techniques, and high rates of success and patient satisfaction. If you need thyroid surgery or are concerned about a progressing thyroid condition, contact the Los Angeles thyroid experts today to schedule a consultation.
Q: What is an autoimmune disorder?
A: The phrase autoimmune disorder indicates a condition in which the immune system is attacking itself. A patient with an autoimmune disorder, such as Hashimoto’s disease, will produce antibodies that attack the body’s healthy cells, resulting in a weakened immune system and other symptoms contingent upon the specific disorder.
Q: What other testing can be done to check for a thyroid condition?
A: Blood work is almost always the first step in testing a patient for a thyroid condition. If a condition is found or suspected, your doctor may want to perform imaging tests. Commonly used imaging tests for the thyroid are ultrasound, CT scan, thyroid scan, and MRI. The specific scan will depend on the condition being treated. A doctor treating a patient with advancing Hashimoto’s and symptoms of goiter may want to perform a thyroid ultrasound to examine the size of the gland. Ultrasound, the use of sound waves to create an image of the internal structures, is frequently used by doctors to get a visual of a patient’s thyroid gland.
Call the Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence in Los Angeles Today for More Information
If you or someone you know is living with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and experiencing symptoms of goiter or neck pain, contact the thyroid surgery experts at the Center today to schedule a consultation with a world-renowned expert. Call (888) 817-1439 for more information or to schedule a consultation.
For more information on minimally invasive thyroidectomy, contact our office today.
Please visit this WebMD page on Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Next, please visit our thyroid symptoms page.