Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How quickly does Hashimoto's disease progress?"
I hear it can take months. I am a 39 year old woman. How can I prepare?
Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body produces antibodies and other substances that attack the thyroid gland. The condition is very common, especially in women. Usually it is diagnosed because a person has symptoms of hypothyroidism, or low thyroid gland function, such as weight changes and fatigue. Sometimes, rarely, it is actually diagnosed in an early phase where the antibodies are actually stimulating thyroid hormone production, and there can be a transiently over active thyroid gland, with heat intolerance, palpitations, and nervous symptoms. This phase however, if present, is usually brief. Subsequently, patients generally develop slowly decreasing thyroid function. There is often a phase where the thyroid hormone levels are low but not low enough to treat, and this is called subclinical hypothyroidism. About 5% of people with subclinical hypothyroidism per year will develop low enough levels of hormone that they will need to start taking replacement hormones. Generally what your primary care doctor will do is see you back frequently if you fall into this category and do periodic blood work to look at your thyroid function. When your levels get to the point where treatment needs to be started, your doctor will prescribe thyroid replacement hormones for you.
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