Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease wherein the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland in the body. The thyroid gland gradually enlarges and forms goitre. In some, hypothyroidism develops which causes weight gain, constipation, fatigue, unexplained aches in the body, pale and dry skin, hair loss, puffy face and enlargement of the tongue, joint pain and stiffness, excessive or prolonged bleeding during menstruation and depression and mood disorders. Eventually, after several years, the thyroid gland shrinks in size and develops potential complications like thyroid lymphoma. The disease mainly affects women in their middle age, although it can happen in any person of any age. The risk factors for the disease are still unknown but factors like heredity, age and sex of the person determines the likelihood of the disease occurring in a person. Treatment for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis requires observation of the symptoms and then medication which can also be a combination of drugs. Use of synthetic drugs, monitoring the dosage of the hormones, observing effects of other substances on the body and on the effect of the synthetic hormones used for treatment are also included in the treatment process. Sometimes a single synthetic drug may not be adequate in treating the disease. In that case a combination of hormones is used for treatment.
Treatment for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is required once it is diagnosed that the symptoms are occurring due to decrease in thyroid hormones in the body. There is no complete cure of the disease and medications are required for throughout the life. The use of synthetic hormones may be required when a thyroid hormone deficiency is seen in the results of the diagnostic tests. Synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine like Levoxyl and Synthroid drugs are used for treatment. All the symptoms of hypothyroidism are reversed by the use of synthetic levothyroxine oral medication because this drug is identical to the thyroxine hormone produced by the thyroid gland in our body. The treatment required would be life long and monitoring of thyroid levels in the body will be done every 12 months to study if any change in the dosage of the medication is required. It is important for the doctor that he/she observes the level of thyroid hormone in the body after a few weeks post-commencement of the treatment. Also, there are certain substances that can affect the synthetic hormone’s ability to get absorbed in the body. it is important for your doctor to know if you are on soy products or have high fiber diet or take iron supplements, multivitamins containing iron, cholestyramine to reduce blood cholesterol levels, antacids containing aluminium hydroxide, any ulcer medication containing sucralfate and any calcium supplements. Sometimes, only levothyroxine treatment may not be adequate for the treatment of the disease and small amounts of T-3 may also be required to see beneficial results.
People who show the signs and symptoms of the disease and have family members already with the disease or any other autoimmune disease, most of the times women in their middle age are susceptible to get the disease and are eligible for the treatment.
People with the signs and symptoms like high blood pressure, weight gain, aches in the body and fatigue etc may not have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis but some other reason for the symptoms. In such cases the persons affected will not be eligible for treatment of this disease.
Normally levothyroxine treatment does not have any side effects if right dosage is used. But in case while setting the right dosage and monitoring the dosage, higher levels of levothyroxine can cause side effects like accelerating bone loss worsening osteoporosis. High levothyroxine levels can also cause arrhythmias or disorder in heart rhythms. It is suggested not to stop medication or skip doses because doing so can bring back the symptoms.
Once the treatment has commenced it is important that you let your doctor know about any substances like soy products, high fiber diet, calcium supplements, iron supplement or any medication for cholesterol control in the body is taken by you. Monitoring of the thyroid levels are done every 6-12 weeks after the medication is started to check there is no side effect due to the synthetic hormone. Following up with the physician is important while the treatment is going on.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis treatment is required throughout the life of the affected person. Thyroid hormone takes time to have results in the body. it may take a few months to ease the symptoms and have positive results in the body.
The price of treatment of Hashimoto's thyroiditis in India ranges from Rs. 250 to Rs. 1,000 all inclusive of physician's consultation, medication and diagnostic tests.
Since the treatment is an ongoing orcess for all the life, it cannot be said that the results will be permanent. If medication is stopped or skipped, the symptoms can return.
Levothyroxine is considered the standard treatment for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Although some research has been done about extracts from thyroid glands of pigs to develop products called Armour Thyroid containing both levothyroxine and triiodothhronine, their usage still holds concerns.