Inherited factors and adverse environmental conditions can cause immunity disorders. If the body’s defenses are not working properly, then acute and chronic diseases occur. The simplest such reactions are allergies to various chemical, food, household agents. In more severe cases, autoimmune diseases develop. Any such disease is caused by the aggression of the body’s defenses against its own tissues. Autoimmune inflammation can affect the kidneys, skin, joints, gonads and other organs. Is no exception and the thyroid gland.
Chronic thyroiditis is an autoimmune damage to the thyroid tissue. The disease is extremely common among certain groups of the population. In general, about 2% of all people have autoimmune thyroid disease. Women suffer 7-10 times more often than men. In regions with endemic goiter, the incidence is 2–5 times higher. The most vulnerable are women older than 40–50 years. Among them, every tenth autoimmune thyroiditis is sick.
Signs of disease
Chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland may not have any manifestations for a long time. Symptoms of autoimmune thyroiditis appear with a pronounced change in endocrine function or organ size.
Normally, the thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones from iodine and other components. If inflammation destroys the majority of endocrine cells (thyrocytes), then the hormones become less and less. This deficiency is called hypothyroidism. At first, the deficient function of the thyroid gland is not very noticeable to the patient and others. At this stage, hypothyroidism is considered subclinical. It can be installed only by blood tests for thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) and thyrotropin (TSH). Further symptoms of hypothyroidism appear. In many cases, well-being disorders are associated with age, other illnesses, fatigue and depression. Only a careful examination and laboratory tests can accurately diagnose hypothyroidism.
In terms of volume, each lobe of the thyroid gland does not normally exceed the size of the patient’s thumb. Therefore, when viewed from the neck, this endocrine gland is usually invisible. Ultrasonography considers normal the volume of thyroid tissue to 18 cm3 in women, and up to 25 cm3 in men. In chronic thyroiditis, the thyroid gland can increase substantially in size. If it becomes more than 30 cm3, then it can already be seen well during a routine inspection. Often, an increase in thyroid tissue up to 100 cm3 or more in autoimmune inflammation is recorded. Such an increase greatly complicates the lives of patients. It should be noted that autoimmune thyroiditis does not always lead to hypertrophy of the gland. Quite often, the volume of an organ remains within the normal range or even decreases.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
Reducing the concentration of thyroid hormones in the blood (T4 and T3) leads to persistent disruption of the heart, digestive tract, skin, blood vessels, nervous system, genital organs. Hypothyroidism interferes with normal metabolism.
Manifestations of autoimmune thyroiditis begin to bother the patient gradually. At first, the severity of changes is quite small. Then develop a severe deterioration of health.
The most significant changes in patients are associated with psychological disorders. Many complain of persistent deterioration of mood, apathy. Even if the patient was a cheerful optimist before the illness, hypothyroidism completely changes his attitude.
Treatment and diagnosis of depression is carried out by a psychotherapist (psychiatrist). If this specialist does not take into account the dysfunction of the thyroid gland, the therapy will be ineffective.
Other changes concern appearance. Patients are worried about weight gain. Obesity develops and progresses against the background of normal or low appetite. In addition, the appearance of the face changes. The skin becomes rough, pale, edematous. Mimicry decreases, so a person seems to be indifferent and unemotional.
Violated the work of the heart. The rhythm changes first. Nearly 100% of patients have bradycardia (pulse less than 60 per minute). In addition, there may be episodes of hypertension or hypotension. Quite often, patients complain of fatigue during exercise, shortness of breath, pain in the heart.
Laboratory symptoms of hypothyroidism
Symptoms of hypothyroidism are not only changes in appearance and well-being. The main signs of the disease are in the data of laboratory examination. In the diagnosis, the level of TSH, T4 and T3 are taken into account. There are other indicators that matter.
So, in hypothyroidism anemia is often detected. The hemoglobin level drops to numbers below 100–110 g / l and below. In the blood are modified red blood cells of irregular shape. Typically, anemia in hypothyroidism is similar to B12-deficiency. This is due to the fact that the low function of the thyroid gland is combined with the defeat of the stomach (atrophic gastritis). Damage to the mucous membrane leads to impaired synthesis of vitamin B12 and iron absorption.
Another laboratory symptom of hypothyroidism is an increase in blood cholesterol concentration. Excess lipids can cause severe atherosclerosis. Vessels are damaged throughout the body. First of all, the heart, brain, limbs suffer. Atherosclerosis leads to cardiovascular catastrophes – heart attacks, strokes, hemorrhages.
Symptoms of thyroid hypertrophy
The symptom of autoimmune thyroiditis is an increase in the size of the thyroid gland. Signs of this condition: change in well-being and appearance. Patients mark the deformation of the contours of the neck. The thyroid gland is clearly visible when the head is tilted back even with a slight increase in its volume. If the endocrine organ reaches 40-50 cm3, it becomes visible at any position of the neck and head.
Complaints of patients with autoimmune thyroiditis:
- feeling of coma in the throat;
- difficulty in swallowing solid foods (bread, potatoes, meat);
- discomfort in the neck;
- discomfort in some clothes (high collar, scarf).
The larger the size of the affected thyroid gland, the stronger the complaints of patients. With the normal structure of the neck, even an increase to 100 cm3 does not threaten the patient’s life. But if the thyroid gland is partially located behind the sternum, then this worsens the situation. With this anatomy, goiter squeezes the trachea, neck vessels, esophagus. Patients may have hypoxia, vomiting of food eaten, headaches, swelling of the face.
Quite often in patients with chronic thyroiditis, nodes in the gland tissue are detected. These tumors may be due to autoimmune inflammation or another process (adenoma, oncology, colloid goiter, cyst).
Symptoms of the site on the background of autoimmune thyroiditis:
- unilateral change of the contours of the neck;
- feeling of coma in the throat;
- discomfort in some clothes;
- discomfort in some positions of the body.
What to do with thyroid symptoms
If a patient has symptoms of autoimmune inflammation, then for examination and treatment he needs to undergo an endocrinologist consultation. The doctor will prescribe blood tests, ultrasound and other procedures for indications.
In case chronic thyroiditis is confirmed, then therapy with pills will be prescribed. Sometimes surgical treatment is required.