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Autoimmune thyroid diseases

Autoimmune thyroid diseases: Introduction

Autoimmune thyroid diseases are common diseases that occur when the thyroid gland is attacked by the immune system. Autoimmune thyroid diseases result in abnormal functioning of the thyroid gland. In autoimmune thyroid diseases, the thyroid gland is either over active or under active. Autoimmune thyroid diseases include Graves' disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Autoimmune thyroid diseases are more common in women than in men. The autoimmune thyroid disease called Hashimoto's thyroiditis occurs most often in females between the ages of 30 and 50 years. The autoimmune thyroid disease Hashimoto's thyroiditis also appears to have a genetic component because it can run in families. People over the age of fifty who have hypertension or atherosclerosis are at risk for developing the autoimmune thyroid disease called Graves' disease.

The thyroid gland is located in the front part of the neck, and the thyroid hormone it produces is vital to normal metabolism. In autoimmune thyroid disorders, the body's immune system mistakes healthy thyroid tissue as a foreign and potentially dangerous invader of the body and attacks it. Autoimmune thyroid disorders result in inflammation of the thyroid tissue, which can eventually either decrease, destroy or over stimulate the production of thyroid hormone.

Decreased production or a total lack of production of thyroid hormone is the hallmark of the autoimmune thyroid disease Hashimoto's thyroiditis, also called hypothyroidism. A lack of thyroid hormone results in a slowing of the body's chemical processes and metabolism. This results in symptoms, such as weight gain, fatigue, and depression.

Over stimulation of the thyroid gland and increased production of thyroid hormone is the hallmark of Graves' disease, also called hyperthyroidism. Increased production of thyroid hormone results in a stimulation or quickening of the body's metabolism. This results in symptoms, such as nervousness, anxiety and hypertension.

Autoimmune thyroid diseases may also lead to serious, potentially life-threatening complications. For more details on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of autoimmune thyroid diseases.

Making a diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid diseases begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. A physician or health care provider may feel a smaller or larger than normal thyroid gland in the neck upon exam.

A blood test is performed to determine levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and the thyroid hormone thyroxine. High levels of TSH and low levels of thyroxine indicate that the thyroid gland is underactive and may indicate a diagnosis of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Low levels of TSH and high levels of thyroxine indicate that a thyroid gland is overactive and may indicate a diagnosis of Graves' disease.

Other tests may be performed to check for potential complications of autoimmune thyroid diseases, such as heart disease. These can include blood tests that can reveal hypercholesterolemia, increased liver enzymes, or anemia. A chest X-ray may be done to evaluate the size of the heart.

It is possible that a diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid diseases can be missed or delayed because early symptoms can be mild or assumed to be associated with other conditions, such as excessive caffeine use, angina, aging or stress. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of autoimmune thyroid diseases.

Treatment of autoimmune thyroid diseases varies depending on the specific type of autoimmune thyroid disease. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of autoimmune thyroid diseases. ...more »

Autoimmune thyroid diseases: The thyroid gland can be attacked by several different autoimmune diseases. The most common are Graves' disease (a form of hyperthyroidism or excessive thyroid hormone) and Hashimoto's thyroiditis (a form of hypothyroidism with deficient thyroid hormone). ...more »

Autoimmune thyroid diseases: Broader Related Topics


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