Symptoms and Treatments for Hashimoto’s Disease
The thyroid gland at the front of the neck produces hormones that regulate a number of body processes. Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body creates antibodies that attack the thyroid gland causing chronic inflammation. The disease can produce a number of subtle symptoms that may be difficult to discern. Hashimoto’s disease can cause a number of complications, including heart problem, mental health issues and birth defects.
Causes of Hashimoto’s Disease
Hashimoto’s disease is a problem of the immune system. The human immune system produces antibodies that help to resist diseases when they occur. However, sometimes, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, and this is what occurs with the thyroid gland in Hashimoto’s disease. The causes of autoimmune problems are not well understood at the present time. Some research indicates that infection with a bacterium or virus triggers the reaction. Other studies suggest a genetic flaw may be the cause. Women are more likely to have the condition, and it appears to affect individuals in middle age.
Signs of Hashimoto’s Disease
Symptoms of underactive thyroid can cause a number of vague symptoms that may be hard to pin down. However, over a period of time, these signs may persist, indicating an underlying health problem:
· Goiter – Swelling of the tissue at the front of the neck
· Weight gain – Consisting of fluid retention, and not related to food consumption
· Increased sensitivity to cold temperatures – Feeling chilled though others do not feel cold
· Depression – Low mood levels unrelated to circumstances
· Fatigue – Unrelieved by normal rest periods
· Dry skin, nails and hair – Hair breakage, weak nails and itchy skin
· Constipation – Unrelated to foods that are eaten
· Difficulty concentrating – Trouble focusing on work or hobbies
· Drowsiness during the day – Daytime fatigue in spite of sufficient nighttime sleep
· Low mood
· Muscle soreness – Pain unrelated to exercise or other activity
· Joint pain – Aching in shoulders, hips or knees
· Excessive menstrual flow – Periods that are heavier than normal
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Diagnosis of Hashimoto’s
Your physician will conduct a full physical examination and will discuss the symptoms you are experiencing in depth. The doctor will then order a blood test called a thyroid-stimulating hormone test to determine if your thyroid is producing an insufficient amount of hormone. Anti-thyroid antibody tests are another type of diagnostic procedure that can determine if the body’s immune cells are attacking the thyroid gland.
Another test, called the free T-4 test, measures the amount of total T-4 thyroid hormone in the body. Low levels can indicate a deficiency in thyroid hormone, even when other tests indicate normal hormone levels. Together, the results from these tests can provide a good indication whether the thyroid gland is functioning normally or if lower thyroid levels are the cause of the symptoms.
Conventional Treatment for Hashimoto’s Disease
The standard treatment for Hashimoto’s disease is providing additional thyroid hormone through medication. Levothyroxine is a synthetic form of thyroid hormone that is identical to the natural thyroid hormone, thyroxine. It is an oral form that is taken daily to reduce the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease and other thyroid deficiencies. Levothyroxine generally has no side effects, and it is low in cost. It is generally taken for the life of the patient, although testing may indicate an adjustment in dosage.
Treating Hashimoto’s Disease Naturally
Hashimoto’s disease can also be treated using more natural methods. A variety of treatments have been found to be helpful, generally involving boosting normal immune function, which is at the heart of the condition:
· Improved diet that includes increased amounts of protein, healthy fats like olive oil and flax seed, and low-gluten grains to help heal the digestive system.
· Supplements of selenium and vitamin D can also help to improve immune system function.
· Learn stress management techniques. People who experience ongoing stress often experience immune system impairment, which can trigger a variety of autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s. Learn to meditate, do yoga, get trained in biofeedback or other method to reduce stress and improve immune function.
With good treatment, individuals with Hashimoto’s disease can see a reduction of symptoms and avoidance of the more serious complications associated with this autoimmune condition.