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Acta Med Croatica. 2011 Dec;65(5):453-7.

[100 years of Hashimoto thyroiditis, still an intriguing disease].

[Article in Croatian]

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Department od Endocrinology, University Department of Medicine, Zagreb University Hospital Center, Zagreb, Croatia.



In 1912 Japanese physician Hashimoto Hakaru described 4 patients with chronic thyroid disease. The histopathology findings exactly 100 years ago described lymphocyte infiltration, fibrosis, parenchymal atrophy and eosinophilic changes of some acinar cells. Those findings are typical for the autoimmune thyroid disease named by the author Hashimoto thyroiditis or lymphocytic thyroiditis. Hashimoto thyroiditis: The pathophysiology of thyroid autoimmunity during the past decades was described in details. Many thyroid antigens were identified (thyroid - stimulating hormone or TSH, thyroglobulin, thyreoperoxidase) and antibodies are directed towards them. Thyreocyte is also able to function as antigen presenting cell. It presents antigen on its surface and expresses MHC class II and class I molecules. Etiology of autoimmune thyroiditis combines genetic and environmental factors. Genetic factors dominate, and influence with about 80% on the occurrence of immunity. Some HLA genes (HLA-DR3, HLA-DR4, HLA-DR5 and HLA-DQA) and some non-HLA genes (cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 -CTLA-4, CD40 gene, gene for protein tyrosine phosphatase 22 -PTPN22, thyroglobulin and TSH gene) are involved. 20% of etiology is attributed to environmental factors (smoking, iodine intake, selenium deficiency, pollution, infectious conditions, physical and emotional stress) and physiological states (puberty, rapid growth, pregnancy, menopause, aging, female gender). Although Hashimoto thyroiditis is known for many years, it is still sometimes presented with surprisingly diverse clinical entities and frequently astonishes many physicians.


A case of a female patient with long-standing hypothesis (fine needle aspiration showed lymphocytic infiltration, thyreoperoxidase antibodies were positive) is presented. During the postpartum period, complicated with septic endometritis a new onset of hyperthyreosis appeared. The etiology of hyperthyroidism was unclear, with three possible explanations. The first one was that residual placental mass could cause prolonged exposure to beta- HCG. Beta- HCG causes hyperthyroidism mimicking action of TSH. The second explanation was that sepsis changes the nature of antibodies directed to the TSH receptor - thyrotrophin binding inhibitory antibodies become thyroid stimulating antibodies. The last explanation pointed to the pregnancy as a trigger itself that influenced on the immune events. Hyperthyreosis was followed by hypothyreosis and substitution with previous dosage of levothyroxine was continued. The answer of the sudden hyperthyreosis was given in subsequent pregnancy that happened 2,5 years later. The following one was free of complications, but postpartum hyperthyroidism occurred again. Further course of disease suited to lymphocytic thyroiditis with hypothyroidism, and she is substituted with levothyroxine until now.


During normal pregnancy it is expected to have decreased ratio of CD4+/CD8+ lymphocyte subpopulation. Studies showed that women who developed postpartum thyroiditis had a higher ratio of CD4+/CD8+ and they were generally anti-TPO positive. It is considered that the lack of the expected suppression of immune function during pregnancy leads to postpartum thyroiditis. In this case Hashimoto thyroiditis showed two different faces: it was presented with long term hypothyroidism, but in postpartum period it converted to hyperthyroidism - a typical picture of postpartum thyroiditis.


Pregnancy as a trigger can reveal till then unrecognized autoimmune disorder, or modify its course from hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism. Hashimoto disease even 100 years after the discovery may surprise with one of its many faces.

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