Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

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Tess Thompson

Autoimmune responses are critical to the functioning of the human immune system and fundamental to the tolerance to antigens. A low level of immunity initially helps to trigger the autoimmune response so that immunity becomes stronger over time. There is also a difference between autoimmunity and alloimmunity. While autoimmunity is a condition where the immune system attacks its own cells, alloimmunity is a system through which the body acquires immunity from another individual of the same species against its own cells.

Autoimmune diseases are caused by the failure of an organism to recognize its own constituents. Autoimmune thyroid disease thus refers to thyroid diseases caused by autoimmunity, in which an individual’s immune system attacks and damages its own thyroid gland. Both Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are examples of autoimmune thyroid conditions.

Autoimmune thyroid problems can lead to hypo as well as hyper thyroid conditions. Hypothyroidism is characterized by under-production of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Between the two of them, they control and regulate nearly all aspects of metabolism. Inadequacy in production leads to symptoms of thyroid problems, which include increased allergic reactions, chronic fatigue, weight gain or weight loss and skin disease.

T-cells are small lymphocytes that are developed in the thymus that direct the immune system’s response to infected or malignant cells. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the first autoimmune disease to be identified, is a disorder where the body’s own T-cells damage thyroid cells.

Graves’ disease, the other autoimmune thyroid disease, leads to hyperthyroidism. It is caused by the formation of anti-thyroid stimulating hormone-receptor antibodies by an antibody-mediated immune response. It is also marked by an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter) and protrusion of the eyeballs from the socket (exophthalmos).

The basic specifics of autoimmune thyroid disease are not fully known. Autoimmune thyroid disease is treated according to the specific disease that is observed. Graves’ disease is a hyper condition and treated with thyroid drugs to suppress production, radioiodine therapy and surgery. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, being a thyroid condition of the low production of hormones, is treated with thyroid hormone replacement.

Treatment of thyroid diseases is of utmost importance, because if left untreated, they can lead to muscle failure, birth defects during pregnancy, miscarriages, and in extreme case, heart failure and even death. If you are careful enough, you can structure your diet in a way that it promotes thyroid health or use a thyroid supplement that boosts the immune system.

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