Is Hashimoto’s Hereditary?
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland. In people with Hashimoto’s, the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland and surrounding cells. The thyroid then can’t produce enough thyroid hormone, which leads to a wide range of potentially life-altering symptoms.
Hashimoto’s is also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, or autoimmune thyroiditis. The condition affects 1 to 2 percent of people in the United States. The exact cause of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis isn’t 100% clear, but there are several factors that put people at a greater risk of developing it.
If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, you’re probably wondering whether the disease is hereditary. As a wellness warrior who is living with Hashimoto’s, I’ve done my fair share of research on the disease. I’m dedicating this post to share what I’ve learned during my own journey, as well as through research, about whether Hashimoto’s is hereditary or not. Let’s get into it.
Is Hashimoto’s Hereditary?
A hereditary condition is passed down through generations and affects members of the same family. Hashimoto’s disease tends to run in families. Although researchers have yet to find a specific gene that carries it, Hashimoto’s is considered hereditary. It’s believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
However, while you are more likely to develop Hashimoto’s if it’s present in your family’s medical history, that doesn’t mean you will definitely develop the disease.
Hashimoto’s Disease Risk Factors
- Sex – Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s.
- Age – Hashimoto’s occurs more commonly in middle-aged people.
- Autoimmune disease – Having another autoimmune disorder puts you at a higher risk of developing Hashimoto’s.
- Genetics – If you have family members with thyroid disorders or other autoimmune diseases, you are at an increased risk for Hashimoto’s disease.
- Pregnancy – The normal changes that occur during pregnancy might be associated with the development of Hashimoto’s after pregnancy.
- Excessive iodine – A diet with too much iodine is a potential trigger for people already at risk for Hashimoto’s disease.
- Radiation exposure – People exposed to high levels of environmental radiation are more likely to develop Hashimoto’s.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hashimoto’s To Watch Out For?
Fatigue is one of the most commonly-reported symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. People with Hashimoto’s often experience sluggishness and increased sleepiness. Extreme fatigue is often one of the first and most noticeable symptoms of a Hashimoto’s flare up.
An underactive thyroid, as a result of Hashimoto’s, causes several changes in the body. One change is a decrease in secretions from the eccrine gland. Without these secretions, the skin lacks necessary moisture and quickly becomes dry.
Hashimoto’s significantly reduces gut motility, which means stool moves too slowly through the colon. The best ways to relieve constipation and prevent recurrence is to include more fiber in your diet and drink plenty of water.
Muscle And Joint Aches Or Weakness, Tenderness, And Stiffness
People with Hashimoto’s also tend to experience muscle aches, weakness, tenderness, and stiffness, especially during flare-ups. There are several ways to potentially relieve muscle pain, but the most effective treatment usually involves thyroid hormone replacement medicine.
If this is a common symptom for you, talk to your doctor about available treatment options.
When your thyroid hormone levels are too low, you can also experience irregular menstrual cycles as well as periods that are significantly heavier than usual. You can read more about how Hashimoto’s can affect your menstrual cycle in my post “Is Hashimoto’s Worse During Period?”
Depression Or Memory And Concentration Problems
A lack of active thyroid hormone can also cause “brain fog.” People with Hashimoto’s often experience difficulty concentrating, problems with memory, and even depression.
If you experience these symptoms as a result of Hashimoto’s, potential treatment options include medication and dietary changes.
Swollen Thyroid Gland (Goiter)
An enlargement of your thyroid gland, also known as goiter, is another common symptom in people with Hashimoto’s. The thyroid gland can become so swollen that it creates a noticeable lump in the front of your neck. It can also lead to discomfort or trouble swallowing, speaking, or breathing.
Hashimoto’s Disease Complications
People with Hashimoto’s usually experience a decreased metabolism. When the metabolism slows down, it reduces the necessary breakdown of cholesterol and triglycerides. If those components don’t properly break down, they build up in the bloodstream, resulting in high cholesterol.
Heart Disease And Heart Failure
If Hashimoto’s is left untreated, it can lead to even more severe complications like heart disease and heart failure. Untreated high cholesterol is a significant risk factor for heart disease, which can then progress into heart failure.
High Blood Pressure
Untreated Hashimoto’s is also linked to high blood pressure. Approximately 3% of people with high blood pressure, or hypertension, have a thyroid disorder. This type of hypertension is called secondary hypertension.
In these cases, typical blood pressure medications often don’t help. Instead, treating the thyroid condition together with anti-hypertensive therapies is most effective.
Myxedema is an extremely rare and fatal condition related to long-standing, untreated hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism, including the kind related to autoimmune disease, can result in myxedema coma if left untreated.
If you believe you or someone you love may have Hashimoto’s, talk to your doctor.
Only a health care professional can diagnose Hashimoto’s disease. If you believe Hashimoto’s might run in your family and think you might have the condition, talk to your doctor or endocrinologist. And while you’re there, be sure to ask these important questions.
For more information on Hashimoto’s, as well as tips and tricks for making the most of life with chronic illness, check out my blog.