Guest Author - Jim Lowrance
The majority of patients with both hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) are experiencing autoimmune diseases that cause these conditions. When autoimmune thyroid disease results in hypothyroidism, the term for the disease is "Hashimoto's thyroiditis." When the autoimmune disease of the thyroid causes hyperthyroidism, it is called "Grave's Disease." The paragraphs below help to bring better understanding to the subject of "thyroid antibodies."
"Thyroid antibodies" are what cause "autoimmune thyroid disease" in patients who develop them. The immune system normally sends out antibodies, which are killer cells, to eradicate foreign invaders from the body that can make us sick. These invaders include viruses, bacteria and allergens. The purpose of antibodies is to seek these out and destroy them, so as to prevent our bodies from becoming ill. The problem with "thyroid antibodies" is that, like other antibodies that cause autoimmune diseases, they are directed against the thyroid gland as if it is one of these invaders. It is a case of mistaken identity that over time causes damage to the thyroid gland and cell death. Eventually, the antibodies will kill out the thyroid gland completely (hypothyroidism).
Some thyroid antibodies cause the thyroid gland to under-function (hypothyroidism), while other types of antibodies cause the thyroid gland to over-function (hyperthyroidism). The two autoimmune diseases caused by thyroid antibodies are "Hashimoto's Disease (thyroiditis), which results in hypothyroidism, and "Grave's Disease", which results in hyperthyroidism. The types that cause Hashimoto's Disease relentlessly attack the thyroid, until it becomes damaged and unable to function at its original level. Once enough damage has been done to the gland and a significant percentage of thyroid cells have been killed, the onset of hypothyroidism occurs. The low level of functioning will usually be mild at first (sub-clinical) and over time will worsen, unless the patient with hypothyroidism receives treatment. The opposite is true of patients with Grave's Disease because in their case, the antibodies directed against the thyroid gland stimulate it to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone or a high functioning thyroid gland.
What are the names of the main antibodies tested for in these two types of autoimmune thyroid diseases? In Hashimoto's Disease, the two main antibodies that cause thyroid gland destruction and resulting hypothyroidism are the anti-Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (abbreviated TPO) and the anti-Thyroglobulin Antibodies (abbreviated TG). In Grave's Disease, the main antibody that causes stimulation of the thyroid gland to produce too much hormone is called the Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobulins (abbreviated TSI). These antibodies (for both diseases) are detected by means of blood lab tests.
What symptoms prompt testing for thyroid antibodies that cause hypothyroidism? The following symptoms prompt testing for thyroid antibodies that cause hypothyroidism: Increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, puffy face, hoarse voice, elevated blood cholesterol, unexplained weight gain, muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints, muscle weakness, heavier than normal menstrual periods, fatigue, an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter) and depression. These symptoms may prompt a doctor to orders tests for the antibodies that cause Hashimoto's Disease.
What symptoms prompt testing for thyroid antibodies that cause hyperthyroidism? The following symptoms prompt testing for thyroid antibodies that cause hyperthyroidism: Sudden weight loss, even when your appetite and food intake remain normal or increase, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia or more than 100 beats a minute), irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia/palpitations), nervousness, anxiety or anxiety attacks, irritability, tremor (fine trembling in your hands and fingers), sweating, changes in menstrual patterns, increased sensitivity to heat, changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements, an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which may appear as a swelling at the base of your neck, fatigue, muscle weakness and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms may prompt a doctor to orders tests for the antibodies that cause Grave's Disease.
Thyroid diseases, can develop at any age but the most common age of onset is between 35 and 40 years old. It is recommended that adults be tested for thyroid disease at age 35 but they should be tested at any age that symptoms indicating thyroid disease develop. Thyroid diseases affect women more commonly than men. Pregnancy also increases the risk for the onset of thyroid disease and so pregnant women also need to have their thyroid function tested as well.