Patient Education - Endocrine Encyclopedia
Endocrine Surgery Encyclopedia
Chronic thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid
gland that frequently results in hypothyroidism (lowered thyroid function).
Alternative Names: Hashimoto's thyroiditis; Struma lymphomatosa; Lymphadenoid
goiter; Chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis; Autoimmune thyroiditis
Causes, incidence, and risk factors:
Chronic thyroiditis or Hashimoto's disease is a common thyroid gland disorder that
can occur at any age, but it is most often seen in middle aged women. It is caused
by a reaction of the immune system against the thyroid gland.
The onset of the disease is slow, and it may take months or even years for the
condition to be detected. Chronic thyroiditis is most common in women and individuals
with a family history of thyroid disease. It is estimated to affect between 0.1%
and 5% of all adults in Western countries.
Hashimoto's disease may rarely be associated with other endocrine disorders caused
by the immune system. When Hashimoto's disease occurs with adrenal insufficiency
and type 1 diabetes mellitus, the condition is called type 2 polyglandular autoimmune
syndrome (PGA II).
Less commonly, Hashimoto's disease occurs with hypoparathyroidism, adrenal insufficiency,
and fungal infections of the mouth and nails in a condition called type 1 polyglandular
autoimmune syndrome (PGA I).
- Intolerance to cold
- Weight gain - mild
- Enlarged neck or presence of goiter
- Small or atrophic thyroid gland (late in the disease)
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Heavy and irregular menses
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking
Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
- Weight gain (unintentional)
- Joint stiffness
- Facial swelling
Note: There may be no symptoms.
Signs and tests:
Laboratory tests to determine thyroid function include:
- Free T4 test
- Serum TSH
- Thyroid autoantibodies are frequently present:
- antithyroid peroxidase antibody
- antithyroglobulin antibody
This disease may also alter the results of the following tests:
- Radioactive iodine uptake
- Complete blood count
- Total cholesterol
- Serum sodium
- Serum prolactin
A deficiency of thyroid hormone may develop at a later time. Replacement therapy
with thyroid hormone (levothyroxine) is given if the hormone is deficient or may
be given if there is evidence of mild thyroid failure (such as elevated TSH), also
known as subclinical hypothyroidism. If there is no evidence of thyroid hormone deficiency,
treatment may be limited to regular observation by a health care provider.
The outcome is usually very good because the disease remains stable for years or
progresses slowly to a condition of thyroid hormone deficiency (hypothyroidism) that
can be treated with thyroid replacement therapy.
- can be associated with other autoimmune disorders
Calling your health care provider:
Call your health care provider if symptoms of chronic thyroiditis develop.
There is no known way to prevent this disorder. Awareness of risk factors may allow
earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Review Date: 4/19/2004
Reviewed By: Nancy J. Rennert, M.D., Endocrinology, Yale University School of Medicine,
New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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