Conditions & Treatments

Hashimotos Thyroiditis

Thyroiditis is the inflammation of the thyroid gland. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common form of thyroiditis.

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

What is Hashimoto's thyroiditis?

Thyroiditis is inflammation of the thyroid gland. Chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis (Hashimoto's thyroiditis) is the most common form of thyroid inflammation. Classified as an autoimmune disorder, Hashimoto's thyroiditis occurs when one's own body makes antibodies to attack the thyroid cells. This results in the destruction of functioning thyroid cells and reduces the thyroid's ability to make thyroid hormone. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common reason people develop hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland). A person with hypothyroidism has to take thyroid hormone pills to keep the level of the hormone normal. The cause of the thyroiditis is not known, but it is most likely a combination of the person's immune system and some environmental factors. 

What are the symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis?

The following are the most common symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Goiter (benign enlargement of the thyroid gland, causing enlargement of the neck)

  • Symptoms of underactive thyroid gland, which include: 

    • Fatigue

    • Muscle weakness

    • Weight gain

    • Cold intolerance 

    • Depression

    • Hair and skin changes 

  • Symptoms of an overactive thyroid. As the thyroid is attacked by the antibodies, it may initially release greater amounts of thyroid hormone, until the amount of hormone it makes decreases. This is called Hashitoxicosis. It does not occur in everyone, but a person may start out with: 

    • Heat intolerance

    • Rapid heart rate

    • Sweating

    • Weight loss

    • Tremors

    • Anxiety 

The symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is Hashimoto thyroiditis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and medical examination, diagnostic procedures for Hashimoto thyroiditis may include blood tests to detect levels of thyroid hormone and thyroid antibodies.

Treatment for Hashimoto's thyroiditis

No treatment is needed for Hashimoto's thyroiditis if thyroid hormone levels are normal.

However, Hashimoto's thyroiditis usually results in hypothyroidism. If found, hypothyroidism can be treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy (the administration of thyroid hormone pills). Thyroid hormone replacement therapy should eliminate symptoms of hypothyroidism and usually alleviates the goiter condition, when present. If the goiter does not improve and is causing other problems, such as pain or difficulty swallowing, breathing, or speaking, surgery to remove it may be required.

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:



Imaging

  • Pediatric Imaging
    The Pediatric Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging specializes in ensuring the safety and comfort of child patients while providing the latest technology and the expertise of specialized pediatric radiologists.
MassGeneral Hospital for Children

  • Pediatric Thyroid Surgery Program
    The Pediatric Thyroid Surgery Program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) is a multidisciplinary program devoted to the care of infants, children and adolescents with thyroid conditions.
  • Pediatric Endocrine Program and Diabetes Center
    The Pediatric Endocrinology Program and Diabetes Center at MassGeneral Hospital for Children is an international referral center for the management of pediatric diabetes and endocrine disorders in children and adolescents.
Endocrine Unit

  • Thyroid Associates
    Thyroid Associates at Massachusetts General Hospital provides expert, comprehensive and efficient care for patients with thyroid disorders such as hyperthyroidism, thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer.

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