Is Hashimoto's Hereditary?

 Did you know that almost 7% of the American population suffers from some kind of autoimmune disease

These debilitating conditions cause your body to mistake healthy cells for a threat. When this happens your body begins to attack and destroy them. One such condition, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, can have dire effects on our overall bodily functioning. This is because the thyroid gland is an essential part of our hormone regulation.

The causes of Hashimoto’s are still under investigation. But some scientists suspect the involvement of genetic factors. Keep reading as we answer the question: “Is Hashimoto’s hereditary?”. 

What Is Hashimoto’s?

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that affects the production of hormones in the thyroid. This butterfly-shaped gland is located towards the front of your neck. It plays an important role in the production and regulation of hormones. 

Think of the thyroid gland as the body’s hormone control center. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system produces lymphocytes or white blood cells. These gather abnormally in the thyroid. They then begin to attack and destroy healthy thyroid cells. This attack leads to the thyroid becomes inflamed and underactive. 

Eventually, the thyroid cannot serve its critical function of producing and regulating hormones in the body. An underactive thyroid spells disaster for your hormonal functioning. It affects bodily functions like growth and development, temperature regulation, strength, and metabolism. An underactive thyroid has a knock-on effect, as the body depends on hormones to function efficiently.

Hashimoto’s can also affect a person’s fertility, making it more difficult to conceive. People with Hashimoto’s who become pregnant should carefully monitor the development of the fetus. This is because the disease may result in the fetus developing heart, brain, and kidney defects. 

Is Hashimoto’s Hereditary?

The science behind Hashimotos is still a bit unclear, and its exact cause is unknown. But scientists expect that the disease might be hereditary. This is due to the prevalence of thyroid disorders among families. If someone in your family is diagnosed with Hashimoto’s it’s important to get your thyroid checked regularly. This means that there is a greater chance that you will also develop a thyroid condition. 

The uncertainty around a genetic link is due to the fact that there are many other factors that may contribute to Hashimoto’s.

The disease occurs most commonly in women, but anyone can suffer from Hashimoto’s. You’re also more likely to suffer from Hashimoto’s if you work around radiation and if you already have existing autoimmune disease.

Other potential triggers of the disease are excessive consumption of certain proteins and iodine. Certain medications and viral infections can also be culprits. 

What are the Signs of Hashimoto’s?

The symptoms of Hashimoto’s will appear gradually. This is why some people don’t get a diagnosis until the disease has progressed quite far. You might begin to notice steady weight gain and hair loss. Hashimoto’s is also often misdiagnosed as a depressive disorder.

This is because suffers will experience bouts of sluggishness and sadness, accompanied by excessive exhaustion. Other common symptoms include always feeling cold, high cholesterol, dry, cracking skin, and constipation. 

High cholesterol can also sometimes indicate Hashimoto’s. Our thyroids produce hormones that regulate the levels of cholesterol in our blood. When the thyroid isn’t functioning properly, these hormones cannot get rid of excess cholesterol, resulting in high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol comes with its own set of concerns. 

More noticeable signs of Hashimoto’s are the swelling of the thyroid so that it protrudes slightly from the neck. A protruding, swollen thyroid gland is referred to as a goiter. If the thyroid becomes severely inflamed, you may also have difficulty swallowing and breathing. 

How Is It Diagnosed? 

If you suspect that you’re suffering from Hashimoto’s, you’re going to want to book an appointment with an endocrinologist as soon as possible. This is because Hashimoto’s can wreak havoc on your system if left untreated. Untreated cases may result in anemia, confusion, and heart problems, including heart failure. 

Endocrinologists are specialized doctors who are experts in glands and hormone production. An endocrinologist will note all of your symptoms and investigate other possible causes. They should also ask you about your family tree to determine any generational factors contributing to your symptoms. 

An integral part of diagnosing Hashimoto’s is measuring the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. If your blood sample shows higher levels of TSH, it means your body is trying to compensate for your underactive thyroid. This is a good indicator of Hashimoto’s. 

How Can Hashimoto’s be Treated?  

Unfortunately, if you’re diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, you’re likely to be on medication for the rest of your life. A synthetic thyroid hormone called Levothyroxine is the go-to treatment. This will replace those hormones that the thyroid is struggling to produce. 

After you’ve been on levothyroxine for a while, your symptoms will begin to disappear. This makes the condition fairly easy to manage; however, you’ll have to go for regular check-ups and blood tests to ensure that your hormone levels are normal. 

Lifestyle changes are also important to avoid worsening the condition and developing other autoimmune diseases. People suffering from Hashimoto’s should generally avoid foods high in iodine like fish and broccoli. Regular exercise also does wonders for the body’s functioning, encouraging a healthy immune system and strengthening the muscles. 

Hashimoto’s and Genetics: The Bottom Line

If you suffer from Hashimoto’s you may be worried about what that means for your family. It’s difficult to find an exact answer to the question: “Is Hashimoto’s hereditary?”. However, scientific advancements in treatment mean that even Hashimoto’s is passed on genetically, it is easy to manage. With effective medication, regular check-ups, and living a healthy life, Hashimoto’s doesn’t have to spell disaster. 

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