How is Hashimoto’s Diagnosed?
Table of Contents
- Written by Dr. Patricia Shelton on May 18, 2022
Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, or low thyroid hormone levels. Hypothyroidism can cause a variety of symptoms throughout the body, including weight gain, fatigue, and even depression, and affects approximately 5% of the adult population of the US. (By contrast, hyperthyroidism, or high thyroid hormone levels, can lead to symptoms like diarrhea and heart palpitations.)
How do you know if you have this disease? Is there a Hashimoto’s disease test that you can take?
What is Hashimoto’s disease?
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly makes antibodies against the thyroid gland. This interferes with its function, and causes low thyroid hormone levels. Low thyroid hormone levels can cause symptoms such as:
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Sensitivity to cold (you feel cold more easily than others do)
- Problems with concentration and memory
These symptoms can easily be mistaken for signs of aging, particularly in older patients. Many of the same symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, such as imbalances in testosterone, estrogen, and/or progesterone. A Hashimoto disease test is needed to determine whether the symptoms are caused by low thyroid hormone levels, and whether the cause of the thyroid problem is Hashimoto’s disease.
Autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto’s disease, are more common in women than in men. They’re also more common in older people than in younger ones. Those with a family history of autoimmune diseases, or who already suffer from other autoimmune diseases (such as type 1 diabetes), are also at greater risk for Hashimoto’s disease.
However, anyone can develop Hashimoto’s disease. If there are signs that you may have low thyroid hormone levels, then a Hashimoto blood test may be helpful to find out whether you have this disease.
How do I know if I have Hashimoto disease?
If you have some of the symptoms that can indicate Hashimoto’s disease, then you may be wondering how to test for Hashimoto disease. For diagnosing Hashimoto’s disease, a few different blood tests are needed:
- Tests of your thyroid hormone levels (T4, and sometimes also T3), to determine if they’re low or high.
- TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone. This is made by the pituitary gland, and it stimulates the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones. If something interferes with the ability of the thyroid to make hormones, then TSH will be high, because the pituitary is trying to stimulate the thyroid to make more thyroid hormones.
- Antithyroid antibody tests. This is a Hashimoto antibody test, which looks for antibodies against the thyroid gland that could be interfering with its function.
A Hashimoto’s disease blood test will include all of these different tests. If your tests show low thyroid hormone levels (T4 and T3), high TSH, and the presence of antithyroid antibodies, then this indicates that you have Hashimoto’s disease.
Can I do a Hashimoto’s test at home?
It is possible to do Hashimoto testing at home. A blood test is still needed to check for Hashimoto’s disease, but you can take the blood sample through a fingerprick. You then send the sample by mail for the Hashimoto lab test. The lab will do the testing and report your results to you online.
Many of the testing companies can also put you in touch with a doctor if the test does detect Hashimoto’s disease. You’ll have an appointment by telemedicine to discuss treatment options.
For those who have Hashimoto’s disease, taking thyroid hormones can help to relieve many of the symptoms.
Hashimoto’s disease. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17665-hashimotos-disease. Accessed 19 May 2022.
Hashimoto’s disease. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hashimotos-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20351855. Accessed 19 May 2022.
Hashimoto’s disease. National Institutes of Health. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hashimotos-disease. Accessed 19 May 2022.
Ragusa F, Fallahi P, et al. Hashimotos’ thyroiditis: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinic and therapy. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab 2019 Dec;33(6):101367. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2019.101367.
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