Hypothyroidism: Is Hashimoto’s Disease the Same as Hypothyroidism?


Dr. Farah Naz Khan’s recent article for GoodRx Health attempts to explain the difference between Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism. The terms are used interchangeably but Dr. Khan’s article explains how and why they differ.

When asked if Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism are the same, Dr. Khan went on to say that they are not the same. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may be a cause of hypothyroidism, but it is just one of many possible causes.

Characteristics of Hashimoto’s disease (chronic autoimmune thyroiditis) are auto-antibodies which are part of the body’s autoimmune system. They destroy cells in the patient’s thyroid gland.

Dr. Kahn explains that the confusion occurs because not all people with anti-TPO antibodies have hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Defined

Thyroiditis is defined as inflammation in the thyroid. Eventually, the thyroid does not produce sufficient hormones. The result is hypothyroidism.

It is believed that Hakaru Hashimoto first described the disease in 1912. However, the Hashimoto auto-antibodies were not identified until much later, perhaps in the 1950s.

Dr. Kahn references a study of Hashimoto’s disease conducted between 1988 and 1994. The study is named NHANESIII. Blood tests of 17,000 people were analyzed. Hypothyroidism was discovered in 4.6% of participants. TPO antibodies were discovered in eleven percent of those studied who did not have hypothyroidism. These results confirm that it is possible for a person to have auto-antibodies and not have hypothyroidism.

Then we have people with thyroiditis but no indication of anti-TPO antibodies. This is known as antibody-negative thyroiditis, a milder condition.

People with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis generally have anti-TPO antibodies. Their immune system creates antibodies that attack the thyroid. The auto-antibodies can damage the thyroid often leading to hypothyroidism.

Antibodies are a normal part of the immune system. But instead of fighting off intruders, auto-antibodies are on the attack against a person’s own body.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis does not have unique symptoms. The symptoms appear to be similar to other types of hypothyroidism which are vague. Common symptoms are weight gain, fatigue, poor circulation, aching muscles, constipation, dry skin, dry hair and nails, and slow heartbeat.

People with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may test positive for anti-TPO antibodies but may not have hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s disease is only one possible cause of hypothyroidism. Other causes may be surgery, radiation, cancer of the thyroid, or medication.

Dr. Kahn ends her article by noting that more research is needed to understand, among other issues, the reason hypothyroidism develops in some people and not in others.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia four years ago. He was treated with a methylating agent While he was being treated with a hypomethylating agent, Rose researched investigational drugs being developed to treat relapsed/refractory AML.

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