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GRAVES' AND HASHIMOTO'S DISEASES AS AUTOIMMUNE CONDITIONS

DR RICHARD ARNOTT


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Graves’ Disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) in younger people and Hashimoto’s Disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (under active thyroid). This article focuses on the nature of autoimmune thyroid conditions and their association with other non thyroidal illnesses.

Thyroid hormone has a profound effect on human development and metabolism. An excess or deficiency of thyroid hormone (hyper- or hypothyroidism) can cause considerable ill health. The cause of these conditions is often an autoimmune dysfunction. Autoimmune conditions are brought about by the body producing antibodies or other immune defence mechanisms which are directed against tissues of the body. These antibodies can cause inflammation in the thyroid and:

There are two components of the normal immunological response upon exposure to a foreign agent (which is usually called an antigen). Foreign agents such as bacteria, viruses, chemicals or toxins upon exposure to the body, are initially processed by cells called macrophages . These cells internalise (swallow) the foreign agents then expose them to other immune cells in such a manner as to stimulate two processes:

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The autoimmune disturbance leading to Graves’ hyperthyroidism may lead to other associated conditions. ...

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The diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid disease may include measurement of certain recognised antibodies. In certain situations these measured antibodies have clinical implications regarding the likely outcome. Thus Graves’ Disease patients who have high levels of Thyroid Stimulating Antibodies after prolonged treatment with antithyroid drugs have a higher chance of their condition relapsing or continuing.

People with high levels of thyroid peroxidase (microsomal) antibodies are more likely to develop permanent hypothyroidism.

Table 1 shows other autoimmune conditions which are associated with autoimmune thyroid disease.

Table 1: AUTOIMMUNE CONDITIONS
Endocrine  
Gastrointestinal  
Dermatological  
Haematalogical  
Neurological  

On the other hand people with Addison’s Disease may have screening tests for thyroid conditions as the likelihood of them developing a thyroid condition is quite high.

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Understanding the nature of these conditions helps to understand the association with related conditions like thyroid eye disease and the association with other autoimmune conditions.

Dr Richard Arnott is a Melbourne-based endocrinologist, who presented this information at our 2001 Annual General Meeting.

This article is published along with a number of other articles dealing with Thyroid Related conditions in our newsletter
Thyroid Flyer Volume 3 No 2, April 2002
and is available for download on our download page.

This article can be reproduced provided it is reproduced in full, acknowledges the source and is not sold for profit.
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