Can Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Shorten Life Expectancy?

Have you considered clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is Hashimoto's disease?

Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland, which is responsible for producing hormones that help regulate different body functions.

An autoimmune disease is when the immune system begins attacking healthy tissues. For those living with Hashimoto's disease, their immune system cells begin to attack the hormone-producing cells, which leads to these cells dying. As a result, those living with Hashimoto's disease often see a decline in hormone production.

The number of people living with Hashimoto's disease is still unclear, but it is the most common cause of hypothyroidism

Causes and risk factors

The immune system of a person with Hashimoto's disease creates antibodies that attack the thyroid cells the same way as they would attack bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances.

These antibodies damage thyroid cells and eventually lead to the cells' death. The immune cells that invade the body cause swelling and inflammation of the thyroid, which can produce a mass on the neck over time.

What causes Hashimoto's disease is still unclear, but it could be linked to various factors, including:

  • Genetics

  • Environmental stressors, e.g., infection, stress, radiation

  • A combination of genetic and environmental factors

There is no known cause for Hashimoto's disease, but certain factors can increase your risk of developing this autoimmune condition. Some risk factors include:

Symptoms and diagnosis

Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disease that progresses gradually. For this reason, some people don't notice symptoms of the disease.

As thyroid function declines, a person may experience some of the following:

To diagnose Hashimoto's disease, you will need to visit a doctor. If you are experiencing symptoms, a doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical examination.

The doctor will also examine your thyroid to check for signs of swelling. If necessary, the doctor will order a thyroid ultrasound to check for abnormal growths.

In addition to the above protocol, the doctor will order blood tests to show your thyroid function. These examinations and tests will enable the doctor to determine whether you have Hashimoto's disease and rule out any other potential diagnosis.

The following are three tests used by healthcare professionals to diagnose Hashimoto's:

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test

This test checks a person's blood level of TSH. This hormone is released by your pituitary gland, which tells your thyroid gland to make more thyroid hormones.

Thyroid antibodies test

This test assesses the antibody level produced when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland accidentally. This test is commonly used to rule out Hashimoto's in a person who has hypothyroidism.

Free T4 test

This test measures the amount of a certain type of thyroid hormone called thyroxine or T4 available to a person's tissues. Low levels of thyroxine often indicate a deficiency in thyroid hormone production, which is useful when determining whether a person has Hashimoto's disease. 

Complications of Hashimoto's disease

Many people with Hashimoto's disease develop hypothyroidism. If hypothyroidism isn't treated, other complications may arise.

Some complications include:

High cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your blood. While your body needs cholesterol, too much can cause fatty deposits in your blood vessels.

Heart disease and heart failure

The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease — a narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. Heart failure is a condition that occurs when your heart fails to pump enough blood, which is necessary for the body.

High blood pressure

This is a condition in which the blood flows through the vessels at a force that's too high.

Myxedema

This rare condition causes the body's functions to slow down at a life-threatening rate. 

What is the life expectancy of someone with Hashimoto's thyroiditis?

Even though there are complications associated with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, the prognosis is fairly remarkable with early intervention, receiving the appropriate treatments, follow-up care with a physician, and being proactive about possible complications.

By following these practices, those living with Hashimoto's thyroiditis should lead a normal life.

Factors that affect the outlook of Hashimoto's disease

Everyone's experience with Hashimoto's disease varies. But certain factors can influence a positive outlook of the disease. Here are three factors to consider.

Early diagnosis

Getting an early diagnosis of Hashimoto's disease can improve your outlook and ultimately reduce long-term complications.

Those diagnosed early by a physician can receive proactive intervention with hormone therapy or monitoring, depending on whether Hashimoto's disease has led to hypothyroidism.

Getting the right treatment

If Hashimoto's disease has led to hypothyroidism, treatment options are available. Implementing treatment can improve your quality of life and help reduce any further complications.

Following up with your physician routinely

Following up with your physician is a great way to remain proactive about your health. Even if Hashimoto's disease has not led to hypothyroidism, it's important to attend all scheduled appointments to follow up on your condition.

A physician will monitor you to see whether your condition is worsening. Attending your scheduled appointments will help the physician determine whether the treatment has been effective or whether another course of action needs to be taken. 

Does Hashimoto's disease get worse with age?

Hashimoto's disease tends to worsen with age because it is progressive. The disease generally progresses slowly over many years and can cause progressive damage to the thyroid glands.

Additionally, it is expected that those with Hashimoto's disease will eventually get hypothyroidism, though this is not always the case. 

Treating and managing Hashimoto's disease

Treatment may not be required for those with a mild case of Hashimoto's. In this case, a physician will only follow up with you to monitor symptoms and determine if the condition worsens.

There are a few treatment options if a person develops hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto's disease. These can treat hypothyroidism and reduce complications associated with the disease.

T-4 hormone replacement therapy

Those who have developed hypothyroidism from Hashmito's take a synthetic hormone called levothyroxine. This hormone mirrors a T-4 hormone that is naturally produced by the thyroid.

This treatment aims to maintain and restore sufficient T-4 hormone levels and help individuals improve their symptoms associated with hypothyroidism.

Your doctor will recommend the best dosage of levothyroxine for your needs. They will consider your age, weight, current thyroid production, and other medical conditions you may have. Those who need to take T-4 hormone replacement therapy will need to take this medication for the rest of their lives.

T-3 hormone replacement Therapy

Another treatment option is receiving T-3 hormone replacement therapy. Naturally-produced T-4 in the body is converted into triiodothyronine (T-3), another thyroid hormone. The T-4  from levothyroxine is also converted into the synthetic T-3 hormone.

This should result in a sufficient supply of the T-3. But for some people, improved symptom control is necessary. In this case, a doctor will also prescribe T-3 hormone replacement therapy or a synthetic combination of T-3 and T-4.

Alternative medicine

If you're looking for an alternative treatment option, there are products with T-3 and T-4 hormones derived from pigs or other animals that you can get as a prescription or dietary supplement. One alternative medicine is Armour Thyroid, available in the United States.

But keep in mind that there are a few concerns associated with these products, including:

  • T-3 and T-4 hormones are not the same between animals and humans, which can cause an imbalance.

  • There's no way to gauge the exact amount of T-3 and T-4 in each product, leading to unpredictable hormone levels. 

The lowdown

Hashimoto's disease is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism. This autoimmune disease affects the thyroid gland, which results in a reduction of hormone production over time.

While the cause of Hashimoto's disease is still unknown, certain factors can increase your risk, such as being a woman, being between the ages of 30 and 50, and having a family history of thyroid problems.

The good news is that Hashimoto's disease is manageable, and there are effective treatment options available to manage symptoms and treat hypothyroidism, such as  T-4 hormone replacement therapy.

With effective treatment and routine follow-ups with a physician, those with Hashimoto's disease can lead a long, healthy life.

Have you considered clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

Have you considered clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

Do you want to know if there are any Hashimoto's disease clinical trials you might be eligible for?
Have you taken medication for Hashimoto's disease?
Have you been diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease?

Join our email list

Want all the latest clinical trial and HealthMatch news in your inbox? We thought you might! Sign up below.