The thyroid is a gland located in the lower part of the neck, whose role is the secretion and regulation of thyroid hormones, which exercise many functions in the body. The thyroid may be the site of autoimmune diseases, the fighting of antibodies against the body's own thyroid cells. We can distinguish Grave's disease
in which autoantibodies bind to the gland and stimulate thyroid hormone secretion: the result is hyperthyroidism. Other autoimmune diseases may also affect the thyroid and cause its inflammation: so is the case of autoimmune thyroiditis
, of which the most typical example is Hashimoto's thyroiditis
. autoimmune thyroiditis is due to immune dysregulation with the production of antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. Initially, thyroiditis causes an increase in thyroid hormone secretion and, conversely, hypothyroidism
develops. In advanced stages, the return to normal is possible, but in some forms such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, hypothyroidism continues.
autoimmune thyroid disease is most often manifested by the appearance of a goiter
, except in special cases, such as atrophic thyroiditis, where the thyroid shrinks instead. The appearance of the goiter does not cause pain. The symptoms are often related to the stage of thyroiditis. Classically:
- at the initial stage, the destruction of thyroid cells leads to release of thyroid hormones and the symptoms are those of hyperthyroidism, including heart signs with tachycardia, digestive issues, with weight loss despite a proper food intake and diarrhea, mood disorders or restlessness, tremors, or increased temperature with sweating and muscle atrophy.
- Quickly, the thyroid gland shrinks and signs of hypothyroidism appear, which are generally opposite to those of hyperthyroidism symptoms: slow heartbeat, weight gain, fatigue and psychomotor retardation, depression, nervousness, cramps and muscle aches.
TSH, a hormone responsible for stimulating the secretion of thyroid hormones, is measured. A thyroid ultrasound and the measurement of specific antibodies involved will confirm the diagnosis of autoimmune thyroiditis.
When thyroiditis presents no bothersome symptoms, no treatment is required. In the opposite case, the troublesome symptoms should be treated with thyroid hormone synthesis. The treatment may be necessary for life in the absence of the resolution of symptoms.
In regards to the prevention of autoimmune thyroiditis, there is no real attitude to adopt to avoid. However, it can be good for certain people with different risk factors to regularly visit a doctor for monitoring. The most affected population is women between the ages of 30 and 60. People with personal or family history of autoimmune disease should also be monitored.