Early detection of autoimmune thyroiditis
One of the most common causes of thyroid dysfunction is autoimmune thyroiditis. This disease results from the immune system attacking your thyroid gland and progressively destroying it. As a progressive disease, little by little thyroid function is lost. Once enough damage has been done to the thyroid gland it becomes irreversible. If this happens, patients will be dependent on hormonal therapy for the rest of their life. Therefore, an early detection of autoimmune thyroiditis is essential to preserve the thyroid gland´s hormonal function. An early detection of autoimmune thyroiditis depends on the identification of risk factors, the evaluation of clinical manifestations, and multiple laboratory tests for autoimmune thyroiditis.
Woman between the ages of 20-60, who have a family history of autoimmune disorders, and experience high amounts of stress (emotional or physical) are among the group of risk factors of autoimmune thyroiditis. If you have any of these risk factors, it doesn’t mean you will have autoimmune thyroiditis, only that you are more likely to develop the disease. Therefore, you and your general practitioner need to be mindful of clinical manifestations that may present early on and the possibility you will need laboratory tests.
Risk factors are some of the earliest aspects that should be studied in patients. Risk factors are not necessarily the cause of autoimmune thyroiditis, rather they are factors which identify patients with a higher risk of suffering the disease. They can be identified by both the patient and the physician therefore, it is vital to completely evaluate possible risk factors.
In contrast to the risk factors, clinical manifestations will only appear once the disease has been present for a certain period in the patient. Like risk factors, clinical manifestations can be identified by both the patient, and a physician. Usually during the initial period, your general practitioner will study your clinical manifestations, and in addition it is imperative to consult with a endocrinologist; which will result in a higher probability of an early diagnosis of the disease. This is why both the evaluation of risk factors is essential. The presence of risk factors and clinical manifestations will allow your general practitioner to refer you to an endocrinologist.
Early clinical manifestations can be identified by either your general practitioner or an endocrinologist. Some of the early clinical manifestations include fatigue, anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction, and changes in the menstrual cycle. Early manifestations tend to be non-specific and are sometimes attributed to other diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, pre-menstrual disorder or cyclothymia.
If the disease progresses, late clinical manifestations may appear. Among the late manifestations are constipation, weight gain, muscle pain, joint pain, cognitive problems, slow heart rate and many others. These are often attributed to autoimmune thyroiditis, but represent a later stage of the disease, meaning glandular function has been lost. In other words, late manifestations imply that the probability of preserving the function of the thyroid gland is low.
Usually to confirm to confirm the diagnosis is of early or late stages of autoimmune thyroiditis, several laboratory tests are performed. Unlike clinical manifestations and risk factors, the test should only be ordered and studied by physicians. The essential laboratory test measures the number of hormones or abnormal antibodies in the blood. Among the hormones measure are the thyroid stimulating hormone and the thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). In patients with autoimmune thyroiditis, the thyroid stimulating hormone will be low and the thyroid hormones will be high.
The evaluation of hormonal levels can identify an abnormality in thyroid function, however they will not determine if patients have autoimmune thyroiditis. Most patients with autoimmune thyroiditis will have abnormal antibodies in their blood, in contrast patients with thyroid dysfunction arising from other causes will not.
In conclusion, an early diagnosis of autoimmune thyroiditis is essential to preserve thyroid function. The success of this will depend on both the physician and the patient. You, as a patient, must be aware of risk factors and early clinical manifestations. The physician must evaluate these factors to identify the underlying disease and confirm it through several laboratory tests. Through an early diagnosis the function of the thyroid gland will allow your body to maintain healthy hormonal balance. Providing a better life expectancy and greater quality of life.
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