Autoimmune diseases never come alone; they always come in a package. It means if you have one autoimmune disease, you are more prone to develop another. The most vivid example of such conditions is rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. You will be astonished to know that the autoimmune thyroid disease Hashimoto's thyroiditis is diagnosed more in people with rheumatoid arthritis than in the common people. Yes, it's true. But how? Is there any link between autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis? Let's explore more about it.
What is Rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is defined as an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system starts attacking the synovial membrane. Such immune system attacks cause chronic inflammation, leading to joint deformity and harrowing experiences. This inflammation can insinuate other organs like the eyes, heart, and skin tissues.
A person with rheumatoid arthritis can experience the following symptoms.
- Stiffness in the joint
- Joint ache
- Joint swelling
- Redness in the joint area
- Warmness in the joint area
- Less motion in joint
Risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis
If you have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis, you are more prone to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis risk increases with age.
If you have unmanageable weight gain.
Joint injury can also increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
If you have any autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto's.
Did you know that rheumatoid arthritis affects women three times more than men? The immune system usually attacks the lining of hands, wrists, and knee joints.
According to the studies, around 1% of the Indian population suffers from this autoimmune disease. If left untreated, the condition can become aggressive and damage the cartilage and bone in the joints.
What is Hashimoto's thyroiditis?
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is also an autoimmune condition. What happens in Hashimoto's thyroiditis is quite similar to rheumatoid arthritis. But here, the immune system's attack target is the thyroid gland cells. The immune system treats the body's tissues as an enemy and attacks, which leads to chronic inflammation in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland loses its ability to produce adequate thyroid hormones. It is the primary justification why people with Hashimoto's usually develop hypothyroidism.
Did you know Hashimoto's thyroiditis goes undiagnosed until a person develops hypothyroidism? Therefore, it is only diagnosed when people with Hashimoto's condition develop hypothyroidism symptoms.
A person with Hashimoto's thyroiditis can have the following symptoms.
A person can gain weight with an underactive thyroid because metabolism is slow.
An underactive thyroid patient can feel tired all day, even after taking a rest.
They become cold intolerant
They can experience muscle weakness.
Muscle and joint pain are common in hypothyroidism.
Patients can experience depression and low mood.
It can slow down the heart rate.
Hair thinning or hair loss is quite a common symptom of hypothyroidism.
It affects the skin by making it dry.
Whenever you notice any symptoms of hypothyroidism, check with your doctor. The doctor will suggest a complete thyroid test as well as a TPO antibodies test to make sure it is an autoimmune disorder or not.
The connection between Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto's thyroiditis often exist together. Numerous studies have been conducted, but the relationship between the two is not crystal clear. Still, we know that one autoimmune disease increases the risk of developing another autoimmune disease.
A study conducted in 2018 showed that the risk of Hashimoto's thyroiditis in people with rheumatoid arthritis increased around the diagnosis time and was reduced two to five years after diagnosis.
The leading theory concluded that the coexistence of two autoimmune diseases is due to genetics. The genes may play a role in exposure to autoimmune diseases. Genetically induced autoantibodies are common in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, and autoantibodies also intercede autoimmune thyroid disorder.
These two autoimmune diseases have a genetic predisposition on the HLA genetic sequence. HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen System) is essential in regulating the immune system. Did you know that various autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes and psoriasis also show inadequacy in this genetic sequence?
If we keep the genetic sequence inadequacy aside, stress and environmental factors like exposure to toxins and dietary habits also trigger the chances of developing autoimmune diseases.
When a person has chronic stress, the immune system develops "self-antigens" to respond to these stressors, resulting in tissue destruction.
A 2017 study in the journal Medicine indicates that the occurrence of autoimmune thyroid disorders in individuals with RA is around 15.7%. Hypothyroidism was a recurring disorder, affecting approximately 30.4% of the study participants with rheumatoid arthritis. So people with autoimmune thyroid disease are at a higher risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis and vice versa.
Does thyroid dysfunction also cause joint pain?
Both rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism cause joint pain. However, rheumatoid arthritis causes swelling in the affected joint. Hypothyroidism leads to stiffness, muscle ache, and delicacy, especially in the shoulders and hips.
If you have been diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction and after taking thyroid medication, all thyroid symptoms are fading away except joint pain, then it's a matter of concern. Check with your doctor to evaluate other conditions behind it. Early diagnosis can preserve your joints and mobility.
Both autoimmune diseases have a lot of similar symptoms. Many doctors run a TSH on all rheumatoid arthritis patients to assure they do not have underlying Hashimoto's.
If you are diagnosed with one autoimmune disorder, you can have another also. It is crucial to diagnose and start its treatment at the earliest.
How root cause diagnosing will help it?
Treating diseases without knowing their root cause won't help you. A root cause is a point from where your condition gets triggered all the time. Whether it's RA or Hashimoto's condition, all the symptoms can fade away if you diagnose the root cause and start treating it.
People with both conditions are likely to have weak responses to treatment. Jeevam uses a functional approach to treat a Hashimoto thyroid patient. The function approach is a new innovative way to treat such conditions. In this approach, they have to go retrograde in history, understand how the patient has lived their life till now, and get an idea about how the patient has developed this condition.
A Word From Verywell
Both conditions can be well-managed with medication. But it is crucial to diagnose it the earliest so treatment can start on time. Medications are a great way to manage the conditions, but it is not the answer to curing autoimmune diseases completely. Therefore, it is essential to develop healthy habits also.
Jeevam Health Team has expertise in treating people who live with multiple autoimmune disorders. Meet with a Jeevam Health Team to regain control of your autoimmune disease, so you can better manage your other health conditions.