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What is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis? Print E-mail
Written by Glenn Rosenberg   
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Hashimoto thyroiditis is a chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is in the front of the neck just below the Adam's apple. It secretes thyroid hormone, which is important in metabolism throughout the body.

What is going on in the body?
Hashimoto thyroiditis is considered an autoimmune disease. This means that a person's immune system attacks his or her own body. No one knows why this happens. With this disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. This can cause thyroid hormone imbalances. Hashimoto thyroiditis is one of the most common causes of a low thyroid hormone level, called hypothyroidism.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

The exact cause of Hashimoto thyroiditis is not known. As with all autoimmune disorders, the immune system abnormally attacks the body. Hashimoto thyroiditis also occurs more often in people who have other autoimmune disorders and diabetes.

What are the treatments for the disease?
Treatment generally focuses on managing the level of thyroid hormone. If the level is low, as it is in most cases, the doctor will prescribe thyroid hormone pills. If the thyroid level is high, the doctor will prescribe medicines that block thyroid hormone from working in the body. Rarely, surgery may be needed if the thyroid gland gets too big.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

All medicines have side effects. If too much thyroid medicine is given, the levels can become toxic. Medicines used to treat abnormal thyroid levels may cause:

- allergic reactions
- stomach upset
- other side effects

Surgery carries the following risks:
- bleeding
- infection
- allergic reaction to the anesthesia

What happens after treatment for the disease?
A person with Hashimoto thyroiditis often requires monitoring and treatment for life.

How is the disease monitored?
Periodic thyroid function tests and visits to the doctor are recommended to monitor the course of the disease. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor as well.

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