What Is Autoimmune Thyroiditis?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on May 10, 2024
2 min read

Your thyroid is a small gland in front of your neck that makes hormones that help control just about every organ. When your thyroid hormone levels are too high or too low, your body can't work right. That can affect your energy level, mood, and weight.

If your thyroid becomes inflamed, you have thyroiditis. Sometimes it happens because your body makes antibodies that attack your thyroid by mistake. This condition is called autoimmune thyroiditis, chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s disease.

Doctors don’t fully understand why your immune system misfires this way. It could be set off by a faulty gene, a virus, or something else. Or it could be a combination of causes.

You may be more likely to get autoimmune thyroiditis if you:

  • Are a woman
  • Are middle-aged
  • Have another autoimmune disorder like lupus, type 1 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Are related to someone who has autoimmune thyroiditis
  • Have been exposed to environmental radiation

You may not have any in the beginning.

As the disease goes on, your thyroid may become enlarged, a condition called a goiter. The front of your neck will look swollen, and it might make your throat feel full. The thyroid may or may not be tender to the touch. 

A damaged thyroid can’t do its job, which leads to hypothyroidism -- too little of the thyroid hormones. Symptoms can include:

Your doctor will order blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels. The tests also look for something called thyroperoxidase antibodies.

You also might have an ultrasound so your doctor can look at your thyroid, especially if your blood test results aren’t clear. Your doctor might spot the problem through regular blood tests even if you don’t have any symptoms, especially if they’re aware that your family has a history of thyroid problems.

The usual therapy is a prescription medicine called levothyroxine (Levo-T, Levothroid, Levoxyl, Synthroid, Tirosint, Unithroid). It’s a man-made version of what a healthy thyroid makes.

Your doctor will keep an eye on you and may have to adjust your dosage every once in a while. You’ll need to take medicine for the rest of your life.

Some foods, like a high-fiber diet or soy products, can mess with levothyroxine. You should also let your doctor know if you take: