Hashimoto's disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland, located at the base of the neck, produces hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, and development. As a result, individuals with Hashimoto’s disease experience a decrease in hormone production and regulation, leading to a host of health issues.
Hashimoto’s disease can make it difficult—or even impossible—to work. As such, it is considered a disabling condition and those with the disease may qualify for disability benefits. Continue reading to learn more, or reach out to Dabdoub Law Firm today to speak to one of our experienced disability attorneys about your legal rights and options.
Symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease
Hashimoto's disease often progresses slowly and may not cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Because of this, many people do not receive a diagnosis until the disease has progressed.
As the condition worsens, individuals may experience:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Weight gain
- Difficulty losing weight
- Sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Muscle aches and stiffness
- Joint pain
- Dry skin and hair
- Depression or mood swings
- Memory problems or brain fog
It is important to note that these symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, and some individuals may not experience all of them.
What Causes Hashimoto's Disease?
The exact cause of Hashimoto's disease is still unknown. However, it is believed to be a combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers.
Certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing the condition, including:
- Genetics: Certain genetic factors, including having someone in your family with Hashimoto’s disease or having another autoimmune disorder, can increase your risk.
- Sex: Although it can affect anyone, regardless of gender, Hashimoto's disease is more common in women than men.
- Age: Hashimoto’s disease can occur at any age, but it most often develops between the ages of 30 and 50.
- Family history: Having a close relative with an autoimmune disorder increases your risk of developing Hashimoto’s disease.
- Other Autoimmune Disorders: People with other autoimmune disorders, such as Type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, may have a higher risk of developing Hashimoto's disease.
Additionally, people who are pregnant may experience changes to their immune systems, which can be a factor in postpartum Hashimoto’s disease. Those who have an elevated iodine intake or who have been exposed to radiation may also be at an increased risk.
Diagnosis of Hashimoto's Disease
Diagnosing Hashimoto’s disease can be difficult, as symptoms can take a long time to appear and may be confused with other health conditions. However, medical providers can use a series of tests and evaluate your risk factors to determine if you have the disease.
To diagnose Hashimoto's disease, your healthcare provider will perform a thorough evaluation, which may include the following:
- A physical examination: Your provider may check for any physical signs of thyroid dysfunction, such as an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter) or dry skin.
- Blood tests: These tests measure the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), free thyroxine (T4), and thyroid antibodies in your blood. Elevated TSH levels and the presence of thyroid antibodies are indicative of Hashimoto's disease.
- Ultrasounds: An ultrasound of the thyroid gland may be performed to assess its size and appearance.
Only a healthcare professional can properly diagnose Hashimoto’s disease. If you believe you may have the condition, you should schedule an appointment with your medical provider right away. You could be entitled to disability benefits, but you will need to obtain documentation from your doctor regarding your condition and its effects.
Treatment and Management of Hashimoto's Disease
While there is no cure for Hashimoto's disease, proper treatment can effectively manage the condition and alleviate symptoms. The primary treatment approach involves hormone replacement therapy, which typically involves taking synthetic thyroid hormones, such as levothyroxine.
The dosage of medication is tailored to each individual's specific needs, and regular blood tests may be required to monitor hormone levels and adjust the medication accordingly. It is crucial to follow your healthcare provider's instructions and attend regular follow-up appointments.
Additionally, lifestyle modifications can play a significant role in managing Hashimoto's disease. These may include:
- Eating a balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods
- Ensuring adequate iodine intake
- Engaging in regular exercise
- Prioritizing stress management and relaxation techniques
- Getting sufficient sleep
While Hashimoto’s disease can be effectively treated, it cannot be cured. Many people struggle to manage their day-to-day symptoms, resulting in an inability to carry out once-ordinary tasks. If you are unable to work due to Hashimoto’s disease, reach out to Dabdoub Law Firm to learn more about filing for disability benefits.
Hashimoto's Disease vs. Other Thyroid Disorders
Hashimoto's disease is often confused with other thyroid disorders, such as Graves' disease or hypothyroidism.
While these conditions can exhibit similar symptoms, they have distinct characteristics:
- Hashimoto's Disease: The immune system attacks and damages the thyroid gland, leading to an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
- Graves' Disease: An autoimmune disorder that causes overactivity of the thyroid gland, resulting in hyperthyroidism.
- Hypothyroidism: A condition in which the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones, but it is not caused by an autoimmune response.
It is vital to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Myths and Misconceptions about Hashimoto’s Disease
There are several misconceptions surrounding Hashimoto's disease. Let's clarify some common myths.
Myth: Hashimoto's disease can be cured with diet or supplements alone.
Fact: While a healthy lifestyle can support overall well-being, hormone replacement therapy is the cornerstone of managing Hashimoto's disease.
Myth: Only women can develop Hashimoto's disease.
Fact: Although more prevalent in women, men can also develop Hashimoto's disease.
Myth: Hashimoto's disease will always progress to hypothyroidism.
Fact: While hypothyroidism is a common outcome, the progression of the disease can vary among individuals.
Contact a Disability Lawyer with Experience Handling Hashimoto’s Disease Claims
At Dabdoub Law Firm, we help clients with all types of disability claims. Our experienced and award-winning legal team can assist you with everything from filing your initial claim to appealing a claim denial. If you or someone you love is unable to work due to Hashimoto’s disease, get in touch with our firm as soon as possible to discuss your potential legal options.
Call (800) 969-0488 or contact us online to request a completely free initial consultation.