What Is The Connection Between Sclerosis And Thyroid Disorders?
Thyroid disorders, primarily consisting of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, poses a significant threat to the wellbeing of the human body.
The Thyroid is a gland that produces hormones in response to stimulation by hormones secreted by the pituitary gland, which, in turn, binds to all cells in the body to assist with cellular metabolism.
Chronic thyroiditis caused by an autoimmune response affects up to 27% of women in their adult years and approximately 7% of men in their adult years1.
Conditions affecting the Thyroid can cause the gland to produce either an excess concentration of thyroxine and triiodothyronine, the primary hormones secreted by the Thyroid gland, or cause a deficiency of these hormones to become present in the body.
Hypothyroidism, a common type of Thyroid disorder, is most commonly found in relation to an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s disease. Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to release antibodies that attack tissue containing no pathogenic materials; thus resulting in damage to healthy body tissue.
Patients affected by Hashimoto’s disease have an autoimmune reaction that causes antibodies to attack healthy Thyroid tissue.
Numerous studies have been presented to offer evidence that a strong co-occurrence with each other, which leads us to the primary focus of our post today. Sclerosis, a condition more commonly referred to as multiple sclerosis, is an autoimmune disease that may share a high risk of co-occurrence with Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease, two autoimmune conditions that may lead to the abnormal activity of the Thyroid gland.
An Overview Of Hypothyroidism And Hyperthyroidism
While there is a number of different diseases and disorders that can affect Thyroid function, the two most commonly discussed conditions include hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
These diseases feature opposite actions in the body – while hypothyroidism describes a Thyroid gland that is unable to produce enough Thyroid hormones to support bodily functions, hyperthyroidism describes an overproduction of Thyroid hormones; thus causing an acceleration of cellular metabolism.
Hypothyroidism means there is an adequate supply of Thyroid hormones in the body, which causes metabolic processes to slow down. In turn, this may cause a slowdown in digestive function, leading to the constant development of constipation.
Additionally, individuals who suffer from hypothyroidism also tend to experience symptoms such as fatigue and lethargy2. Hypothyroidism can also lead to excessive weight gain, which causes further complications, such as a higher risk of heart disease, cognitive impairment and type 2 diabetes.
Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, leads to a speed-up of all metabolic processes. Hyperthyroidism is not as common as hypothyroidism, only affecting around 0.8% of the adult population in Europe and approximately 1.3% of the adult population in the United States3. Fatigue is also relatively common amongst patients who suffer from hyperthyroidism. Instead of weight gain, however, weight loss may become a particular problem in a patient with hyperthyroidism.
An increase in appetite, frequent bowel movements, an increase in sweating and heat intolerance are also common symptoms.
Additionally, hyperthyroidism can also cause mood-related problems, such as irritability, and may also affect heart beat by causing palpitations4.
Autoimmune Diseases As A Cause For Thyroid Dysfunction
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism have autoimmune diseases considered to be their most common causes. When looking at the potential causes of hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease is often listed at the top of such a list.
Hashimoto’s disease, another autoimmune disease, is considered to be the most common cause of an underactive Thyroid gland within the United States5, and may also account for data across other countries.
- Hashimoto’s Disease – Patients with Hashimoto’s disease have an immune system that sends antibodies to attack healthy tissue in their Thyroid gland. When the tissue is attacked, it becomes inflamed and, in turn, the Thyroid’s ability to produce hormones is impaired. This leads to a reduction in the production and secretion of Thyroid hormones, including thyroxine and triiodothyronine hormones in the blood circulatory system6.
- Graves’ Disease – Graves’ disease is also caused by the immune system attacking healthy Thyroid tissue. While inflammation also occurs with the development and presence of Graves’ disease, Thyroid function is not impaired as with Hashimoto’s disease. Instead, the inflammation caused by Graves’ disease rather leads to excessive amounts of Thyroid hormones being produced by the gland. This leads to elevated levels of triiodothyronine and thyroxine being present in the blood7.
Multiple Sclerosis – Signs And Symptoms
Sclerosis is an autoimmune condition that most publications refer to as multiple sclerosis. This autoimmune disease has no known cure at the moment, but there are some treatment options that may help a patient experience a relief of their symptoms, and possibly providing the patient with a way to enjoy a higher quality-of-life, as compared to not obtaining the right treatment.
It is important to note that multiple sclerosis does not always cause symptoms in a patient who develops the disease – some people live for years without experiencing any significant symptoms at all. In some cases, however, the disease can cause severe and disabling symptoms that may cause a significant impairment in a patient’s ability to continue with their daily function.
In multiple sclerosis, the immune system mistakenly starts to attack different parts of the central nervous system. The particular areas mostly affected by multiple sclerosis include the spinal cord, the optic nerves and the brain. Ultimately, the protective layers around nerves are damaged due to the antibodies produced by this disease, which leads to problems in nerve impulses and communication.
The disease is not as common as some other type of autoimmune conditions, only affecting around 400,000 adults in the United States. Approximately 200 new diagnoses of multiple sclerosis is made every week in the country8.
When the disease first starts producing symptoms, especially in those individuals who never experience severe symptoms, a patient may notice numbness in their extremities, such as their hands, arms, legs and feet9. A tingling sensation may sometimes accompany the numbness. Fatigue is also a relatively common symptom experienced by patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis.
Moderate symptoms of multiple sclerosis may include muscle spasms, as well as stiffness of muscles throughout the body. Some patients may also find that their learning abilities, thinking abilities and their planning abilities become impaired. Problems with bladder control also tend to develop in some patients.
More severe symptoms of this autoimmune condition may include issues with the patient’s coordination and balance.
Walking may also become more difficult than usual. In some cases, the optic nerve might be severely affected in a patient with multiple sclerosis; thus leading to blurred vision, double vision or even a loss of vision in some patients.
Is There A Connection Between Multiple Sclerosis And Autoimmune Thyroiditis
The prevalence of autoimmune disease has increased considerably over the course of just a few decades. The reason behind the increase may be contributed to by advancements in technology and medical sciences; thus allowing for an easier route to diagnosing such conditions in the human body. These advancements in the healthcare industry have also made it possible for medical scientists to make connections between diseases that were not previously known.
When we look at current research data surrounding autoimmune thyroiditis – including any type of Thyroid disorder that is caused by an autoimmune reaction – we can see evidence that a number of accompanying autoimmune conditions are found in the population affected by conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease.
One review paper10 describes that recent studies have found a relationship between chronic autoimmune Thyroid diseases and the following additional autoimmune conditions:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Diabetes mellitus
- Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
- Sy Sjogren disease
- Morbus Addison disease
- Lupus erythematosus-SLE
- Vasculitis superficialis
- Megalocytic pernicious anemia
With many of these autoimmune diseases involving connective tissue, it becomes obvious that a connection may also exist between autoimmune diseases that affect the Thyroid gland, and multiple sclerosis. To better understand the possible connection, we want to focus on a particular study11 that was conducted by the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.
The study looked at a number of surveys and charts in order to determine whether a connection also exists between thyroid autoimmune diseases and multiple sclerosis. Data were retrieved for patients suffering from Thyroid-related disorders, as well as for a separate group of patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis.
This data was then analyzed to see if any relation does seem to be present amongst the data – patient files with multiple sclerosis as the primary diagnosis were analyzed to determine the co-occurrence of Thyroid disorders, while patients with the primary diagnosis of Thyroid disease were analyzed to determine the co-occurrence of multiple sclerosis.
At the end of the study, the scientists involved provided evidence that there seems to be a strong connection between both autoimmune diseases associated with Thyroid dysfunction, and multiple sclerosis. The co-occurrence of Graves’ disease and multiple sclerosis were far more significant than the co-occurrence of Hashimoto’s disease and multiple sclerosis, however.
For this reason, it seems like individuals who suffer from an overactive Thyroid should keep an eye out for the development of symptoms that are associated with multiple sclerosis, as they might be at a higher risk of developing this autoimmune disease in addition to Graves’ disease.
Targeting Multiple Autoimmune Diseases In A Single Treatment Plan
Treatment approaches for numerous autoimmune diseases are often similar, where particular types of pharmaceutical drugs are provided to a patient in order to reduce the symptoms they are experiencing, as well as to address the fact that the immune system is attacking healthy tissue.
When it comes to the co-occurrence of multiple sclerosis and a Thyroid autoimmune disease, it is vital that both conditions are diagnosed and appropriate treatment measures are included in a single treatment plan – this would reduce the risk of the patient experiencing possible interactions between the drugs utilized to treat the two conditions.
While both Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease are autoimmune disorders, it should be noted that the effects these conditions have in the human body are treated differently. A patient diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease are usually provided synthetic Thyroid hormones, due to the lack of thyroxine and triiodothyronine in their blood. When Graves’ disease is diagnosed, however, antithyroid medication may be used to reduce the production of these Thyroid hormones.
In addition to the use of these pharmaceutical inventions, corticosteroids and other particular immunosuppressant medications may also be used to reduce the production of antibodies by the immune system; thus helping to slow down the progression of the disease.
This is a treatment approach that individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis are also often provided. When co-occurrence of the two diseases is present, a patient may only have to take a single dose of particular medications that suppress the immune system.
Undergoing separate treatments for both conditions can cause a further breakdown of the immune system and, in turn, cause the immune system to become too weak to fight off infections, viruses and other pathogenic substances that enter the patient’s body.
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are two particularly common Thyroid disorders amongst women, and also affects a small number of men.
Both of these conditions are most commonly caused by autoimmune reactions, including both Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease.
Scientific studies have confirmed that a connection may exist between the occurrence of these two autoimmune diseases and multiple sclerosis.
Previous studies have also confirmed that autoimmune thyroiditis shares a connection with other autoimmune diseases as well, including rheumatoid arthritis and systematic lupus.
In this post, we discussed the autoimmune features of the two particular diseases most commonly found in patients who suffer from an overactive or underactive Thyroid gland.
We also discussed recent scientific studies that provided evidence of a possible connection between these diseases and multiple sclerosis, and considered how a single treatment plan might be compiled for a patient suffering from multiple autoimmune diseases simultaneously.
1 Mark P.J. Vanderpump. The epidemiology of thyroid disease. Oxford Academic: British Medical Bulletin. 1 September 2011. https://academic.oup.com/bmb/article/99/1/39/298307
2 Hypothyroidism. PubMed Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0022776/
3 Simone De Leo, Sun Y. Lee, Lewis E. Braverman. Hyperthyroidism. HHS Public Access. 27 September 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5014602/
4 Symptoms Of Hashimoto’s Flare-Up. Thyroid Advisor. https://thyroidadvisor.com/symptoms-hashimotos-flare/
5 Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284
6 Hashimoto’s Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hashimotos-disease
7 Graves’ Disease. American Thyroid Association. https://www.thyroid.org/graves-disease/
8 MS Statistics. MultipleSclerosis.net. https://multiplesclerosis.net/what-is-ms/statistics/
9 Multiple Sclerosis: Overview. NHS Choices. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/multiple-sclerosis/
10 Lapcevic M. Autoimmune thyroid disease and associated diseases. U.S. National Library of Medicine. October 2005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16405263
11 Multiple Authors. Co-occurrence of autoimmune thyroid disease in a multiple sclerosis cohort. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 9 November 2005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1308850/
Like what you read?
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.
Like what you read?
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.