Guest Author - Jim Lowrance
There is a neuro-endocrine disorder that causes very serious and potentially life threatening symptoms, called Hashimoto’s Encephalopathy (HE). The disorder can occur in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, who experience a very high elevation of “thyroid antibody” levels. These antibodies, that attack the thyroid gland after recognition of it by the immune system, as a foreign invader, can become highly elevated in these rare cases of HE. At these high elevations they will begin to affect brain and nerve function in the body or the “neurological system”. Severe symptoms will result because this system is the body’s information and communication center and a disruption from a disease process can cause an array of nerve and brain related symptoms.
Inflammation caused by the antibodies (also called auto-antibodies) spreads to the brain and begins to affect the tissue containing the nerves that control bodily functions and impulses throughout the body. The resulting effect, are severe neurological symptoms, meaning abnormal responses and manifestations of nervous system dysfunction. These symptoms can include; psychotic episodes (hallucinations and delusions), dementia (mental deterioration), neuropathies (abnormal nerve sensations), seizures and even coma or death if left untreated.
The antibodies responsible for causing thyroid destruction and inflammation in the thyroid gland but that can also cause HE when highly elevated, are the “TPO” (anti-thyroidperoxidase) and “TG” (anti-thyroglobulin) antibodies. This autoimmune process, called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis that can result in the less common Hashimoto’s Encephalopathy, is more often a result of elevated anti-TPO levels although it can result from elevations of both it and the anti-TG antibodies.
Thyroid hormone levels are not usually a factor in this potentially serious neuro-endocrine disorder of thyroid autoimmunity. Some patients in fact have been documented in medical research, to have experienced HE with their thyroid hormone levels in normal range and before they were in need of thyroid hormone replacement therapy. This disorder is a rare but strong example of the fact that thyroid antibodies have the ability to produce bodily symptoms regardless of thyroid hormone levels.
Treatment for HE, is to reduce the inflammation caused by the thyroid antibodies by administering a steroid anti-inflammatory drug to patients who are diagnosed. These drugs, also called corticosteroids or hydrocortisone, mimic the anti-inflammatory properties of our body’s own natural anti-inflammatory called “cortisol”. A major brand prescribed for inflammatory conditions is “Prednisone”, a powerful steroid that usually achieves an anti-inflammatory effect quickly with only a relatively short term regimen being necessary to correct cases of HE. Patients who are treated, usually see a complete reversal of symptoms and will not experience any longterm complications from HE, once it has been resolved with treatment.
If a patient with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or their loved ones, notice the onset of sudden and severe neurological symptoms, they should report to their Doctor immediately, to rule out HE as the cause. A delay in treatment for a patient experiencing this very rare disorder could result in severe consequences.