(HASHIMOTO’S AND GRAVES’ DIESEASE)
The most common reason for having abnormal thyroid function is an immune system attack, causing the thyroid gland to either slow down or work excessively. This is called autoimmunity, meaning the immune system views your thyroid as a foreign entity. Autoimmune thyroid conditions are the most common among all autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune thyroid disease is actually more common that type I diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis. In autoimmune thyroid disorders, antibodies start attacking your thyroid. In one form of autoimmune thyroid disorders called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the thyroid no longer produces hormones normally, so it leads to hypothyroidism (low thyroid). Often, a genetic predisposition causes autoimmune disorders of the thyroid but many other factors, such as bacterial or viral infections, radiation, vitamin and antioxidants deficiencies, and stress can trigger an autoimmune attack.
The frequency of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis begins to rise significantly around puberty. At menopause, women become even more vulnerable to this autoimmune disorder, which explains why nearly 10 to 15% of postmenopausal women become hypothyroid. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is quite common, affecting over 10% of the population. Additionally, Women are 5 to 7 times more affected than men. Many patients suffering from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have normal thyroid function but have never become hypothyroid, however this does not mean that they are not at a high risk of becoming hypothyroid at any point in their lives.
Graves’ disease is also an autoimmune condition that typically results in overactive thyroid and affects one to two percent of the population. The antibodies that attack the thyroid, (thyroid stimulating antibodies) stimulate the thyroid gland and make it produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. The damaging antibodies of Graves’ disease can also attack the eyes, a thyroid-eye disease known as Thyroid Orbitopathy, caused by inflammation of the structures around the eyes, including the eye muscles. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism in both men and women is Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease is also 5 to 7 times more common in women than men.