Hashimoto's disease, or Hashimoto's thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disease, i.e. a disease caused by an antibody attack on the body's own cells. Autoantibodies, caused by an abnormality in the tolerance of the body's defense system, will attack the thyroid gland and cause the progressive destruction of the thyroid cells. Initially, the thyroid compensates by increasing its activity, but the progressive lysis (destruction) of cells ultimately leads to a decrease in the volume of the gland and a hormone deficiency.
The disease mainly affects adult women, often between the age of 40 and 60.
The symptoms of Hashimoto's disease are:
- a goiter that is more or less large, i.e. a mass located in the neck
- a large goiter can sometimes compress nearby organs and be responsible for issues with breathing, speech or food intake;
- depending on the stage of goiter, signs associated with hyperthyroidism may be present, generally with an acceleration of a large number of body functions: tachycardia, diarrhea, sweating, restlessness, tremors ...;
- lastly, the goiter will decrease gland atrophy, and symptoms will change under hypothyroidism. These symptoms are opposed to those of the original hyperthyroidism: bradycardia, constipation, chills, psychomotor retardation...
The diagnosis is made after further tests, including:
- TSH, which shows impairment of the functions of the thyroid gland;
- the discovery of autoantibodies involved in the disease to confirm the diagnosis;
- a medical imaging technique, a thyroid ultrasound, to better visualize the thyroid and check its appearance.
Other tests may also be performed according to the symptoms in order to judge the impact of the disease on other organs.
Treatment will depend on the stage, but after a short period of hyperthyroidism, it will consist of the administration of replacement therapy: thyroid hormone synthesis, if the hypothyroidism is associated with Hashimoto's disease. In addition, regular monitoring is required to assess the balance provided by the hormone replacement.