Hashimoto's thyroiditis is a disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid, which is a gland located at the base of the throat. The thyroid makes hormones that help the body use energy and work as it should. (1)

This attack causes inflammation and interferes with the thyroid gland's ability to produce the hormones that control these bodily functions.

The disease is also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis or autoimmune thyroiditis. (2)

Causes and Risk Factors of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Doctors don't know exactly what causes Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Genes may be responsible. Viral infections and hormonal changes may also play a part. (2)

The following factors may increase your risk of developing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis:

Gender Women are far more likely than men to develop Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Age The disease is diagnosed most often in middle age.

Other autoimmune diseases If you have another autoimmune disease — such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, or lupus — you have a higher risk of developing Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Family history You are at higher risk for the condition if other members of your family have thyroid or autoimmune diseases.

Duration of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

People who are diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may have it for the rest of their lives. Many will likely need to take medication indefinitely.

Complications of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

If left untreated, Hashimoto's thyroiditis can cause complications, including:

Heart problems The disease can lead to high LDL cholesterol (a contributor to coronary artery disease), heart failure, and other forms of heart disease.

Goiter (enlarged thyroid) Hashimoto's thyroiditis can cause a large goiter to grow, which may interfere with swallowing or breathing.

Mental health issues The condition raises your risk of depression and may slow your mental function.

Miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth These have been associated with untreated thyroid conditions. (8)

Myxedema (severe hypothyroidism) Some people with untreated Hashimoto's thyroiditis develop myxedema, rare, life-threatening form of hypothyroidism.

There’s also some evidence that women with hypothyroidism may experience problems such as lower desire and inhibited orgasm. (9)

Black Americans and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

White people seem to be at a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism than Black people.

Research suggests that, compared with white individuals, Black individuals have lower levels of TSH hormones and the antibodies associated with hypothyroidism. (11)

In an analysis of military medical records, published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that rates of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis were significantly lower in Black people and Asian people and Pacific Islanders, while being much higher in white people. Researchers hypothesize that the difference may be due to variations in environmental exposure, genetics, or a combination. (12)

Resources We Love

American Thyroid Association

The ATA is a global medical professional society dedicated to the prevention and treatment of thyroid disease. On their website, you can find information on all aspects of thyroid health, as well as assistance finding a thyroid specialist.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  1. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. American Thyroid Association.
  2. Hashimoto Thyroiditis. National Institutes of Health. August 18, 2020.
  3. Hashimoto’s Disease. Mayo Clinic. February 11, 2020.
  4. Subclinical Hypothyroidism: Deciding When to Treat. American Family Physician. February 1998.
  5. Gosi SKY, Garla V. Subclinical Hypothyroidism. StatPearls. July 12, 2020.
  6. Hashimoto’s Disease: Outlook/Prognosis. Cleveland Clinic. June 11, 2020.
  7. Krysiak R, Szkróbka W, Okopien B. The Effect of Gluten-Free Diet on Thyroid Autoimmunity in Drug-Naïve Women with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis: A Pilot Study. Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes. July 2019.
  8. Thyroid Conditions During Pregnancy. March of Dimes. February 2019.
  9. Wang Y, Wang H. Effects of Hypothyroidism and Subclinical Hypothyroidism on Sexual Function: A Meta-Analysis of Studies Using the Female Sexual Function Index. Sexual Medicine. June 2020.
  10. Hashimoto’s Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. September 2017.
  11. Hollowell J, Staehling N, Flanders WD, Hannon WH, et al. Serum TSH, T(4), and Thyroid Antibodies in the United States Population (1988 to 1994): National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. February 2002.
  12. McLeod D, Caturegli P, Cooper D, Matos P, et al. Variation in Rates of Autoimmune Thyroid Disease by Race/Ethnicity in U.S. Military Personnel. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2014.


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