Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hashimoto's Disease

Most people have heard about hypothyroidism, especially those who live in the Rocky Mountain area, but not many people know that there are many other problems associated with the thyroid gland that exhibit symptoms similar to hypothyroidism. One of these diseases is Hashimoto's Disease. People with Hashimoto's disease have overactive immune systems that (for some reason the medical world still has yet to discover) produce antibodies against their own thyroid glands. Because of this characteristic of the disease, Hashimoto's is classified as an autoimmune disorder (along with Graves' disease, Crohn's, Juvenile Arthritis, Lupus, and many others).
The antibodies attack the thyroid gland as if it were a foreign invader like a virus or bacteria, and slowly destroy it. The symptoms of this disease are extremely contradictory. People with Hashimoto's exhibit both symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism (not at the same time, of course) because as the antibodies attack, the thyroid swells and releases excess amounts of thyroid hormone (T4), but after the attack, the thyroid functions less effectively because part of it is destroyed and thus produces too little thyroid hormone.
The most obvious symptom of this disease is the stinging, burning, and redness of the skin at the neck near the thyroid gland during an attack. Other symptoms are (in extreme cases) blood-shot, bulging eyeballs; goiter; and tingling and shaking during the attack and weight gain, hair loss, low energy, dry skin, and constipation after the attack.
A simple blood test usually unveils this disease, but doctors don't often think of it because they consider Hashimoto's to be a rare problem. Patients should ask their doctors to test not only their levels of T4 and T3 but also their TSH and, most importantly, their thyroid antibodies. Any level of thyroid antibodies is too high and must be treated even if the other blood work comes out normal (which it usually does).
This disease must be treated with a combination of T4 hormone (Synthroid) and T3 (Cytomel). Also, Prednisone or another steroid can help to stop the attacks while the optimal thyroid does is being worked out.
Information comes from Overcoming Thyroid Disorders by David Brownstein, M.D. which I recommend to anyone with any type of Thyroid problem.

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