The thyroid gland
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. The thyroid gland produces two hormones that control metabolism (how the body turns food into energy) and keep the body working properly.

What is Hashimoto’s disease?

Hashimoto’s disease is a disease that affects the thyroid gland. It is also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, or autoimmune thyroiditis.

What causes Hashimoto’s disease?

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system is attacking its own cells and organs. Normally, the immune system protects the body against infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and other harmful substances. In Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system makes antibodies that attack and damage the thyroid. As a result, the thyroid gland becomes inflamed and hypothyroidism can develop.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a disorder that occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones to meet the body’s needs. The thyroid gland isn’t making enough hormones because the body’s immune system has attacked and damaged it.

Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism, which is how the body turns food into energy. Without an adequate amount of energy, the body cannot operate normally and the body’s functions begin to slow down.

Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.

What are the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease?

Some patients may not have any symptoms at first. As the disease slowly progresses, the thyroid gland will become enlarged (a condition called goiter), creating a feeling of fullness in the throat. Goiter is often the first sign of Hashimoto’s disease. Other symptoms that develop over time include:

  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling cold
  • Joint stiffness and muscle pain
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Puffy eyes/face
  • Dry skin
  • Thinning hair/hair loss
  • Heavy or irregular periods
  • Difficulty becoming pregnant
  • Memory problems/difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Slow heart beat

What are the risk factors for developing Hashimoto’s disease?

Hashimoto’s disease:

  • Is more common in women than men.
  • Commonly appears between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Tends to run in families (appears to be a heredity link).
  • Is more likely to develop in people who have other autoimmune diseases. For example, certain liver conditions, B12 deficiency, gluten sensitivity, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, Lupus, and Addison’s disease (an adrenal gland condition).

Consuming too much iodine can trigger hypothyroidism in patients who have Hashimoto’s disease but don’t have any symptoms of the disease. High iodine levels could be obtained by consuming iodine-containing supplements or eating large quantities of iodine-containing foods, such as kelp and seaweed.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy