DR Ikechukwu Henry, an Abuja based endocrinologist, says Hashimoto disease is depriving the human body of the necessary hormones for healthy function.
Henry told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Abuja that neglecting to treat this condition could lead to a number of complications.
Hashimoto’s disease also called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder in which a person’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland.
The endocrinologist explained that the disease was named after a Japanese physician Hakaru Hashimoto, who discovered it.
The endocrinologist said Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis was the most common cause of hypothyroidism or decreased activity of the thyroid gland.
According to him, hypothyroidism can cause a goitre “an inflamed and swollen thyroid gland”, which can affect the human ability to swallow food or to breathe.
Other possible complications are heart disease, depression and birth defects, said the expert.
He said that myxedema was the name for severe, untreated hypothyroidism, noting that it can result in a medical crisis known as myxedema coma, in which the patient may lose consciousness as organ functions slow or shut down.
Henry said that the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease were related to the effects of low levels of thyroid hormones.
“You may notice a swelling of the throat beneath your Adam’s apple as the thyroid gland becomes inflamed and enlarged. Hashimoto’s disease may cause mood changes, fatigue, memory problems and depression.
“Pale skin, sensitivity to cold, a puffy face and brittle nails can also be signs of this disease.
“Additionally, unexpected weight gain, muscles aches and joint pain can signal this disorder. Women may notice unusually heavy menstrual bleeding,” he explained.
According to him, Hashimoto’s disease is more likely to affect women than men.
“While this disease can appear at any age, it is most likely to set in during the middle-age years,’’ Henry said.
He said that people were at greater risk of developing this disease if a family member had the disease or if they already suffer from another autoimmune disorder.
Henry explained that autoimmune disorders were diseases in which a body’s immune system goes awry and begins attacking healthy body organs or tissues as if they were foreign substances.
In Hashimoto’s disease, he said, it affects organ in the thyroid, stating that the thyroid gland is a small gland located just below Adam’s apple.
“This gland produces and releases thyroid hormones into your bloodstream. Thyroid hormones regulate body functions such as metabolism, heart function, muscle control, brain development and mood.
“When the thyroid is attacked by your immune system, it is no longer able to produce the hormones needed for these necessary functions,” he said.
He, however, added that exposure to radiation increases chances of developing the disease.
The endocrinologist said that there were two types of blood tests used for the diagnosis of hypothyroidism, stating that the first is to test a person’s blood for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).
“TSH levels become high in the blood when the thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormones. The pituitary gland of the brain then produces more TSH in an attempt to stimulate the production of T3 and T4,” he explained.
He stated that the second test was to determine the presence of antibodies against the enzyme Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO).
“The immune system is attacking TPO, then these antibodies will be present,” he added.