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Oprah Winfrey’s Hashimoto’s Disease Diagnosis Explained

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Oprah Winfrey is not only a household name and one of the biggest celebrity figures but also an advocate for health and wellness. For over a decade, she has been vocal about her experience with thyroid issues that she said have left her with fatigue, exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, and weight gain (via CBS News).

Thyroid issues, whether a person experiences an overactive or an underactive thyroid, can directly impact metabolism and energy levels. Winfrey has been outspoken about her experience seeking a diagnosis and obtaining the care she needs to treat her thyroid issues.

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition that causes the thyroid, a gland at the front of the neck’s base that is shaped like a butterfly, to become underactive, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include those Winfrey has mentioned experiencing during her healthcare journey, with common symptoms of the autoimmune disorder being fatigue, muscle weakness, memory difficulties, and joint pain.

The symptoms experienced are vast and vary from person to person, though the condition is most pronounced in middle-aged women. Luckily, there are effective treatments for the autoimmune disorder once it has been properly identified by a healthcare provider. Here is what you should know about Hashimoto’s disease, which is also referred to as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis.

Hashimoto’s disease occurs when the thyroid doesn’t produce sufficient amounts of the necessary thyroid hormone to mediate metabolism, thus becoming underactive, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. Women are seven times more likely than men to experience Hashimoto’s disease, but anyone can be diagnosed with the autoimmune condition.

The majority of cases are diagnosed in female patients between the mid-life ages of 40 and 60. With an underactive thyroid, it’s common to be overly sensitive to cold temperatures, experience chronic fatigue, and notice changes in nails and hair. Weight gain and depression are also frequently identified as side effects of an underactive thyroid and Hashimoto’s disease.

The experts at WebMD report that since Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease, it indicates that the immune system is working against the body’s tissues, which in the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis occurs when the thyroid fails to make enough thyroid hormones. Excessive exposure to iodine and radiation can also increase the risk of a person developing Hashimoto’s disease. To combat the inability of the thyroid to create sufficient hormones, there are several available treatment options for an underactive thyroid.

Medications that replace hormones and manage thyroid levels are available to treat Hashimoto’s disease. However, the condition has no overall cure. If you are concerned about your thyroid function, you should consult with your healthcare provider to see if related testing is necessary to diagnose an underactive or overactive thyroid. 

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