The INSIDER Summary:
• Gigi Hadid recently revealed that she’s battling a condition called Hashimoto’s disease.
• It’s an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the thyroid gland.
• Hashimoto’s causes a litany of unpleasant symptoms — but it can be treated.
Supermodel Gigi Hadid is a celebrity of titanic proportions: It seems like everywhere you turn she’s on the cover of a magazine, and more than 26 million people follow her every move on Instagram.
“My metabolism actually changed like crazy this year,” she said during the panel. “I have Hashimoto’s disease. It’s a thyroid disease, and it’s now been two years since taking the medication for it.”
And she’s not alone: E! reports that a handful of other celebrities have gone public about their battle with the disease, including Zoe Saldana, Kim Cattrall, Gina Rodriguez, and Victoria Justice.
So what, exactly, does this Hashimoto’s disease do to the body? Here’s a quick overview of the condition Hadid has been dealing with.
What is Hashimoto’s disease?
Hashimoto’s disease (also called Hashimoto’s thyroidism) is an autoimmune condition, which broadly means that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues. There are dozens of different types of autoimmune diseases, according to the NIH.
In Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system makes antibodies that specifically attack and inflame the thyroid, a gland that sits at the base of your neck. The thyroid may be small, but it’s massively important: It makes
hormones that regulate metabolism by controlling breathing, heart rate, digestion, and body temperature.
Doctors still don’t know for sure what causes the disease, but there are some risk factors. According to the Mayo Clinic, you’re more likely to get the disease if you’re female (it’s 10 times more common in women than men), middle-aged, have had exposure to radiation, you have a different autoimmune disease, or you have a family history of autoimmune disease.
What are the symptoms?
Hashimoto’s disease usually progresses slowly over the years. Eventually, the thyroid stops working properly and doesn’t produce enough of the hormones it’s supposed to. This causes a number of unpleasant symptoms, including tiredness, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, pale skin, brittle nails, hair loss, swelling of the tongue and a puffy face, unexplained weight gain, muscle aches and weakness, joint pain, long and heavy periods, depression, and lapses in memory.
The symptoms alone aren’t enough for a diagnosis, though: Doctors need to perform blood tests that measure thyroid function to know for sure.
How is it treated?
The good news is that the standard course of treatment — taking pills that contain a man-made version of thyroid hormones — can reverse the symptoms of the disease. (In Hadid’s case, they appear to be working — she looked healthy on the runway at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show in early December.)
The bad news is that people with the disease need to keep up this hormone therapy for life, and need to keep regular appointments with their doctors in case they need a dose adjustment, the Mayo Clinic explains. In some cases, the thyroid needs to be surgically removed.
Starting treatment as soon as possible is crucial, by the way: If Hashimoto’s is left untreated, a whole bunch of other medical issues can develop, including goiter, dangerously high cholesterol, heart problems, mental health issues, and even a scary life-threatening coma called myxedema. Untreated Hashimoto’s disease in mothers can also affect the development of babies.
Think you might have a thyroid problem?
Thyroid issues are more common than you might think. The NIH says about 1 in 100 Americans has an overactive thyroid (that’s the opposite of what’s happening in Hashimoto’s) while around 1 in 20 have an underactive thyroid, whether that’s caused by Hashimoto’s or something else.
The best course of action is to set up an appointment with a doctor. This list of questions from the Mayo Clinic might be helpful to bring along, too.
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