Grave's Disease and Hashitmoto's Thyroiditis are both autoimmune diseases that affect the thyroid gland. These two dieases are often confused because they are quite similar. But while both are autoimmune diseases and both affect the thyroid, they actually cause opposite diseases. One causes hypothyroidism and the other hyperthyroidism.
Both Grave's disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis are caused by autoimmnune diseases. Autoimmune dieaseases occur when your immune system decides to attack part of your own body, thinking that it is causing you harm. In Grave's disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid and confuses it, making it think that you are not making enough thyroid hormone. As a result, your thryoid begins to make too much thyroid hormone, resulting in hyperthyroidism also known as overactive thyroid. In Hashimoto's thyroiditis, the immune system also attacks the thyroid—but with different results. The thyroid is damaged and makes less thyroid hormone. This confuses the pituitary gland in your brain, and your brain begins to make too much thyroid stimulating hormone. The result is hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid.
Some of the symptoms of Grave's and Hashimoto's mirror each other. Both can cause irregular menstrual cycles, depression and irritablity. But with Grave's disease you will notice unexplained weight loss and feeling too wound up to sleep as opposed to Hashimoto's which will make you feel exhausted and might cause unexplained weight gain. Grave's disease can also cause a rapid heartbeat, brittle hair and sensitivity to heat. Hashitmoto's causes high cholesterol, constipation, puffiness in the face and joint pain or muscle weakness.
The treatments for Grave's disease and Hashimoto's are completely different which is why it is so important for your endocrinologist to determine which autoimmune thyroid disease you actually have.
Grave's disease is treated with several different medications. They do not cure the disease but do lessen the side effects. Beta blockers relieve the the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Anti-thyroid medications slow your thyroid's production of thyroid hormones. Finally, radioactive iodine treatments help your body destory the overactive cells in the thyroid. If none of these treatments work, the thyroid can be surgically removed.
Hashimoto's is easier to treat, although like Grave's disease, it cannot be cured. It is treated with synthetic hormones. Because the body is not making enough thyroid hormones, all the person with Hashimoto's has to do is take synthetic forms of the hormones the body needs. There are very little side effects when the dosage is taken correctly. However, the challenge with Hashimoto's is that the correct dosage can change over time. This means the patient with Hashimoto's must have blood levels checked regularly to keep the dieases under control. Too little hormone replacement can bring back symptoms of hypothyroidism. Too much hormone can mimic hyperthyroidism.