Hashimoto's Thyroiditis Disease
More and more people are beginning to hear of Hashimoto’s disease (or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis). I know that the first time I heard it I couldn’t even pronounce it right. What I didn’t know then was that I was going to get very familiar with Hashimoto.
In 1999 my mother announced that she had a condition called Hashimoto’s disease. No one knew what it was except that it affected the thyroid. In the wide-scheme of things, it affects the entire body.
The thyroid is an extremely small gland at the base of your throat that is shaped like a butterfly. Though small it is one of the largest of the endocrine glands in the human body. It interacts with the liver, kidneys, and spleen and affects the metabolism. A small organ that carries huge power in both men and women.
With Hashimoto’s disease the thyroid begins to generate excess hormones that begin to attack the thyroid itself and all the other organs of the body. Like all other autoimmune diseases it begins an attack of the body instead of foreign invaders. It starts off really subtle and might not even be noticed for years after the disease is activated.
This is not a new disease. It has been around for centuries but was only recognized as a condition by itself in 1912 by a Japanese pathologist, Hakaru Hashimoto. He began to recognize symptoms that went beyond other conditions and over time discovered the actual damage that it does by excessive hormones. The hormones basically kill the thyroid as it attacks itself. Then it become known as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
If you look at the list of autoimmune diseases (100 and still counting) and their symptoms, you’ll find that many have these symptoms. Being tired does not mean that you have a disease. We get tired from working 40 hours, raising a family, and running here and there. Gaining weight does not necessarily mean you are sick. You more than likely eat too many potato chips and watch too much TV (guilty!). But a combination of these over a period of time leads doctors to investigate further.
A list of the symptoms will go something like this:
· Hair loss
· Sensitivity to cold
· Panic attacks
· Pale skin, dry skin
· Memory loss/forgetfulness
· Muscles aches and pains
· Excessive or prolonged periods
· Weight gain
· Voice loss/hoarseness
How many of you are ready to run to the doctor? Fatigue we have daily. Hair loss might be happening because we are older or if we have kids. Memory loss could be because we have too much on our plate. We could keep on going.
When I first went to the doctor, they chided me for not coming in earlier.
“Do you have fatigue?” “Yes.” “How long?” “About a year.” “Why didn’t you come in sooner?” “I just had a baby two months ago.”
“Do you have hair loss?” “Yes.” “How long?” “About a year.” “Why didn’t you come in sooner?” “I just had a baby two months ago.”
“Do you have weight gain?” “Yes.” “How long?” “About a year.” “Why didn’t you come in sooner?” “I just had a baby two months ago.”
“Do you have depression?” “Yes.” “How long?” “About a year.” “Why didn’t you come in sooner?” “I just had a baby two months ago.”
I just had a baby!!!!!!! Those symptoms are normal. I would not have gone into the doctor for a few more months if my allergist had not felt a lump in my throat. I had just had a physical the week before and nothing was there. In a week it had developed. Hashimoto’s is a slow progressing disease normally. Due to my pregnancy hormones and the stress I was under (my father was dying and a dear friend had just passed away), it had sent the disease into overdrive.
Blood work was done. A radioactive x-ray procedure was done to show the size of the lump. At the time of the test it was only on the left-hand size and was the size of an olive. They scheduled surgery in less than two months.
By the time the surgery rolled around, I had trouble swallowing, my voice was almost gone, and turning my head from side to side was getting difficult. You could see the goiter (lump) in my throat. It was now about the size of a golf ball.
Pathology confirmed Hashimoto’s disease. It had become aggressive and when they went to take it out, it had spread to the other side of the thyroid (so then they had to take both halves out) and had attached itself to my esophagus. It had also swallowed the parathyroid glands which are crucial in calcium and phosphorus levels of your body.
What we found out then changed the life of my entire family. What my mother’s doctor had neglected to tell her was that the disease was hereditary. Research had shown that if you had the disease it was extremely likely that your children would have the gene also. Having the gene does not mean that you have the disease but it does mean that it can be passed on. In fact, women are more likely to show signs of the disease than men. When the fact was told to us about others in the family having it, the women all went for testing. My niece has it and had surgery also since hers was very progressed by the time they found it. My aunt has not been diagnosed with it. My sister has it also. Everyone else gets tested regularly to catch it early. My own children are tested every year at their physical to ensure that they will only have to take a small pill every day instead of having to deal with much more.
Do not ignore the symptoms above if you have them over a long period of time and if you have more than a handful of them. It doesn’t hurt to see the doctor and do a blood draw. It could save your life.