Autoimmune thyroid gland inflammations

Jul 10, 2012 , Jakub Šulta

autoimunitni-zanety-stitne-zlazy.jpg - kopie
autoimunitni-zanety-stitne-zlazy.jpg - kopie
Autoimmune thyroid gland inflammations are diseases characterized by antibodies or cells of our immune system attacking the cells of the thyroid gland. Two basic diseases from this group are the Graves-Basedow disease and the Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Both of these autoimmune thyroid inflammations can have unpleasant and dangerous symptoms.

Autoimmune inflammations of the thyroid gland

The amount of thyroid diseases is currently on the rise. They mainly appear in women, but they do not men and children either. The thyroid gland is an organ specializing on the production of triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4) and calcitonin hormones. The first two hormones influence processes in nearly all parts of the body from oxygen management to protein synthesis to fat burning. Any thyroid disease will manifest either through an increased (hyperthyroidism) or decreased (hypothyroidism) production of hormones. Both hypo- and hyperthyroidism are conditions with many unpleasant symptoms, which decrease the quality of life. These diseases have various causes, including autoimmune inflammations.

Autoimmune inflammation

Every person has an immune system, which protects us against everything that would disrupt our organism's balance. It fights against viruses, bacteria, ever cancerous cells. Although it will mercilessly destroy anything foreign or damaged, it will ignore the cells of its own body. If its function is damaged, however, it's possible for the immune system to not recognize certain cells (or organs) of the body and start destroying them. This leads to an inflammation if the affected area, which is not exclusive to the thyroid gland, but often also happens to intestines or liver. Although the exact mechanism of development of autoimmune diseases is not known, a damage in the immune system's control or an influence of certain viruses is presumed.

Graves-Basedow disease

Graves-Basedow disease is an autoimmune inflammation of the thyroid gland and the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, an increased production of hormones. Statistically, it causes 60-80% of all cases. Graves-Basedow disease is strongly genetically influenced and affects up to 2% of female population. It mainly affects middle-aged women, which are at a risk 5 times greater than men.


The symptoms of Graves-Basedow disease correspond to the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is characteristic by an accelerated metabolism, the patient is tired, hyperactive, sweats profusely, tends to defecate often, suffers from diarrhea and heart palpitations. Other observable symptoms of this autoimmune inflammation is the swelling of the thyroid gland, a goiter, as well as ophtalmopathy, an unusual symptoms for regular hyperthyroidism, which are eyes that are characteristically protruding, almost as if sticking out of their sockets.


The cause of this autoimmune inflammation is not clear, although there are several theories, which are more or less probable. The most common opinion is that the cause of this disease are bacteria or viruses which will start the autoimmunity. Later the cells of the immune system start producing antibodies against the thyroid gland cells, causing an inflammation damaging the organ and causing characteristic symptoms.


Since we don't known the true cause of autoimmune inflammations, we can't apply a precise treatment. A thyroid gland with a Graves-Basedow disease is treated with thyrostatics, radioiodine and a surgery. Thyrostatics are drugs which decrease the production of thyroid hormones and thus normalize their overproduction. Partial or complete destruction of the gland can be done by radioiodine. The last option is a surgical removal of the gland or its part. No type of treatment is preferred and the choice depends on the patient's current state, the disease's stage and the country as well. In USA the most popular type of treatment is using radioiodine, on the other hand in European countries the use of thyrostatics and a subsequent surgery is preferred.

Hashimoto's thyroid inflammation

Hashimoto's thyroid inflammation (Hashimoto's thyroiditis) is the most common cause of reduced thyroid gland production, hypothyroidism. It is a chronic autoimmune inflammation, the first one to be recognized as an autoimmune disease.


Hashimoto's thyroiditis often leads to hypothyroidism. This is why symptoms of this disease are very similar to those of a decreased thyroid gland production. The patient may gain weight, may be depressed, be sensitive to temperature changes, tired, suffer from high cholesterol, constipation, muscular weakness and many other symptoms which mainly differ in intensity based on the disease's stage. A goiter may appear temporarily, mainly in the early stages of the disease.


Just as the Graves-Basedow disease, Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune inflammation of the thyroid gland whose precise mechanism of development is unknown. Again, damaged immune system is suspected, either due to genetics or triggered by either bacterial or viral disease. Afterward, the cells of the immune system start producing antibodies which damage the thyroid gland's cells.


The treatment of this autoimmune thyroid inflammation is mainly focused on supplying missing hormones the gland cannot produce itself. The hormones are taken in pill form. Prognosis is usually favorable in the case of an early diagnosis and correct treatment.

Treatment of autoimmune thyroid inflammations

The treatment depends on the type of the inflammation and the influence it has on the body's overall state. Diseases of the thyroid gland are treated by an endocrinologist. Regular examinations are very important in order to monitor the levels of hormones in blood and determine the dosage of drugs based on this. Regular examinations are important for one more reason. Patients with an autoimmune thyroid inflammation have a higher risk of developing further autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, liver cirrhosis, ulcerous colitis, Crohn disease etc. This is why it's important to carefully watch your health condition and be under a constant watch both by an endocrinologist and an immunologist.


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