Did you know that 14 million Americans have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and 5% of the population have hypothyroidism?
While Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism are the most common thyroid disorders, they are two very different health issues.
You might be wondering the difference between Hashimoto’s disease vs. hypothyroidism and what that means for your health and well-being.
Keep reading to learn more about understanding Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism.
Hashimoto’s Disease Explained
Your thyroid gland makes up part of the endocrine system. The endocrine system makes hormones that help control many of the body’s functions. With Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system attacks your thyroid gland and creates antibodies that damage it.
Hashimoto’s causes inflammation to your thyroid gland, which leads to hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s disease is the leading cause of hypothyroidism and can affect people of all ages.
It’s not known exactly what causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland, but it’s thought that certain bacteria may trigger this. Genetics may also play a key role in the onset of Hashimoto’s.
Some factors increase your risk of getting Hashimoto’s disease at some point in your life. Risk factors include:
- Women are more likely to develop Hashimoto’s
- Hashimoto’s mainly occurs during middle age
- If you have family members with Hashimoto’s disease
- If you have other autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
- If you’re exposed to high amounts of environmental radiation
Hashimoto’s progresses slowly over time, and you may not notice symptoms right away. Often the first symptom is a swelling around the front of your throat called a goiter. Other symptoms of Hashimoto’s include:
- Sensitivity to cold
- Frequent constipation
- Pale and dry skin
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
Women can also experience longer periods with excessive menstrual bleeding. Other people suffer from depression and memory lapses.
Treating Hashimoto’s Disease
Treatment of Hashimoto’s usually includes medications and observation of your thyroid levels. If Hashimoto’s disease is causing a deficiency in thyroid hormones, you’ll need medication.
These medications are synthetic thyroid hormones and involve taking a daily dose of medications like Synthroid or Levoxyl.
To get the dosage right, your doctor will need to check your thyroid level every 6 to 8 weeks until they determine the correct dosage. Once your dose and thyroid levels normalize, you’ll need to have it checked yearly.
Some people also try an alternative form of thyroid hormone taken from pigs’ thyroid glands called Armour Thyroid.
Stress can also affect how the immune system functions and many people look to decrease the amount of stress in their lives. Stress, poor diet, and missing nutrients can lead to thyroid problems. You can look online and find websites that discuss natural ways of healing, such as fixing hashimotos disease.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
Unlike Hashimoto’s, primary hypothyroidism isn’t due to a problem with your immune system.
Primary hypothyroidism occurs when you don’t have enough thyroid hormone in your bloodstream. This occurs when your thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone for your body.
As a result, your metabolism slows down, which affects your entire body. Your metabolism affects your heart rate, body temperature, and how quickly you burn calories. When your metabolism slows, your body makes less energy, and you feel tired and sluggish.
A secondary cause of hypothyroidism is the failure of the pituitary gland. When this happens, it can’t send enough thyroid-stimulating hormone to balance out your other thyroid hormones. Other causes include:
- Radiation to the neck
- Not enough iodine in your diet
- Thyroid surgery
- Certain heart or psychiatric medications
- Pituitary gland surgery
There are certain risk factors to developing hypothyroidism, such as being a woman and having close family members with autoimmune diseases. Other risk factors include:
- If you’re white or of Asian descent
- Older age
- Bipolar disorder
- Down Syndrome
- Having an autoimmune disorder like multiple sclerosis or celiac disease
Symptoms of hypothyroidism are often not obvious and can mimic other diseases. Symptoms start slowly at first and worsen over time.
At first, you’ll likely begin to feel tired, depressed, have a decreased interest in sexual activity. Many people also experience elevated cholesterol levels as well as symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Other symptoms include:
- Changes in menstrual cycles
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
Your doctor can easily test for hypothyroidism with a simple blood test. Standard treatment involves taking a daily dose of a synthetic thyroid hormone.
These medications bring your hormone levels back to normal and typically reverse the symptoms you’re experiencing. You’ll start to feel better quickly once you start medication treatment. The good news is taking thyroid medication can also lower elevated cholesterol levels and return your metabolism to normal.
It’s best to take your thyroid medication at the same time every day and when you have an empty stomach.
You should wait for at least an hour to eat or take any other medication. Certain foods and supplements can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb thyroid medication. To avoid any problems, don’t take your thyroid medication with foods or medications like:
- Soybean flour
- Iron supplements
- Calcium supplements
- Cholesterol medications like Prevalite or Colestid
- Ulcer medications like Carafate
Certain supplements like selenium, vitamin B, and probiotics can be helpful in maintaining normal thyroid metabolism.
Hashimoto’s Disease vs. Hypothyroidism
Although Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism cause low thyroid levels, they have very different causes.
Now that you understand the difference between Hashimoto’s disease vs. hypothyroidism, you have the knowledge to help your body heal and return to wellness.
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