New Treatments for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

By:

Louis A. Cona, MD

Reviewed:

Robert J. Hancock

Explore the latest advancements in managing Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, from standard hormone replacement to promising new treatments. Uncover insights into autoimmune medications, dietary considerations, and lifestyle factors that can influence the progression of Hashimoto's, aiding in better management of this chronic condition.

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Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that significantly impacts the thyroid gland, leading to hypothyroidism. This condition affects a substantial portion of the population and has traditionally been managed through thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

However, with advancements in medical research, new treatment modalities are coming to light, offering hope for better management and improved quality of life for individuals with this condition.

Key Takeaways:

  • New Potential Treatments: Metformin, DTE or LT4/T3 combination therapy, and surgical interventions are among the emerging treatments.

  • Clinical Trials: Ongoing research and trials are crucial for validating the effectiveness and safety of new treatments.

  • Individualized Treatment Plans: The evolving treatment landscape suggests a move towards more personalized treatment plans based on individual patient characteristics and responses to therapy.

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is characterized by the immune system's attack on the thyroid gland, leading to inflammation and impaired thyroid hormone production. The resulting hypothyroidism manifests through symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and cold intolerance, among others.

Traditional Treatment Paradigm

Traditionally, the management of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis has centered around thyroid hormone replacement therapy, specifically the administration of levothyroxine to replace the deficient thyroid hormone.

New Treatments for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Not all patients respond well to standard treatment, and some continue to experience symptoms despite optimal hormone replacement, indicating a need for alternative or additional treatment strategies.

1) Levothyroxine (Standard Hormone Replacement Therapy)

The standard treatment for hypothyroidism in Hashimoto's is Levothyroxine to replace the thyroid hormones that the thyroid can no longer produce adequately. The dose of levothyroxine is tailored to the individual patient and adjusted over time based on regular monitoring of thyroid hormone levels.

2) Corticosteroids like Prednisone (For Short-Term Inflammation Reduction)

Corticosteroids like Prednisone can be used short-term to reduce inflammation and thyroid damage in active Hashimoto’s. However, long-term corticosteroid use has significant side effects, so it is not a sustainable treatment option.

3) Immunotherapies like Rituximab, Etanercept, and Tocilizumab (To Target Autoimmune Response)

These biologic drugs suppress the overactive immune response in Hashimoto's by targeting specific immune system components:

  • Rituximab depletes B cells

  • Etanercept blocks TNF-alpha

  • Tocilizumab blocks IL-6

Early research shows improved thyroid function and reduced anti-thyroid antibodies in some Hashimoto’s patients, but larger trials are needed.

4) Thyroid Hormone Analogs like Tiratricol (To Compensate for Hormone Deficiency)

Tiratricol is similar to thyroid hormones T3 and T4 and can help compensate for the deficiency in Hashimoto's. It may also help normalize the autoimmune response, but more research is required.

5) Thyroid Peroxidase Inhibitors (To Limit Autoimmune Attack)

These compounds inhibit a key enzyme needed for thyroid hormone synthesis, which may decrease autoimmune attack by reducing antigen presentation. However, effects on thyroid hormone levels need further study.

6) Selenium Supplements (To Improve Thyroid Hormone Metabolism)

Selenium is needed for proper thyroid hormone metabolism and may reduce antibody levels. However, optimal dosing and effects need more investigation.

7) Vitamin D Supplementation (In Deficient Patients, To Improve Thyroid Function)

Vitamin D may improve thyroid function and reduce antibodies in Hashimoto’s patients with vitamin D deficiency. Further studies on dosing and long-term impacts are warranted.

8) Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy involves using stem cells to regenerate damaged tissue and modulate the immune system. Some early research suggests mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from bone marrow or umbilical cord could benefit Hashimoto's in a few ways:

Regulating the Immune System

  • Hashimoto's is caused by the immune system attacking the thyroid. MSCs have immunosuppressive properties and can inhibit autoimmune responses.

  • Animal studies show MSCs can migrate to the thyroid and regulate proinflammatory T cells and autoantibodies involved in Hashimoto's, restoring immune balance. This evidence suggests MSCs could suppress the autoimmune attack on the thyroid, although human trials are still needed.

Protecting Against Thyroid Damage

  • By suppressing autoimmunity, MSCs may be able to reduce inflammation and protect thyroid cells from further immune destruction.

  • MSCs secrete growth factors that support cell growth and tissue repair. This could help regenerate damaged thyroid tissue.

Restoring Thyroid Function

  • In animal models, MSCs improved thyroid hormone levels, suggesting they may help restore thyroid function. However, it's unclear if MSCs can regenerate enough functional thyroid tissue to completely normalize hormone levels without standard therapy.

Concerns

  • Safety and optimal dosing of MSCs need further study in humans.

  • It's unknown if MSCs' effects are long-lasting or if repeated doses are required.

  • More evidence is needed to demonstrate stem cells conclusively improve Hashimoto's in humans. Current research is limited to animal studies and small human trials.

In summary, stem cell therapy shows theoretical promise for suppressing autoimmunity, protecting the thyroid, and improving hormone levels in Hashimoto's. But larger, high-quality human trials are still needed to determine its safety, efficacy, and optimal use. For now, it remains an experimental approach.

Metformin

Metformin, a medication primarily used for managing type 2 diabetes, has shown promise in the treatment of autoimmune diseases including Hashimoto's Thyroiditis due to its immunomodulatory properties.

Mechanism of Action

Research has demonstrated that Metformin can interfere with the immunopathological mechanisms associated with systemic autoimmune diseases, which has implications for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis treatment. Key actions include:

  • Balancing T helper 17/T regulatory cell dynamics

  • Modulating macrophage polarization

  • Inhibiting germinal center formation

  • Reducing autoantibody production and cytokine secretion

These actions contribute to a reduced autoimmune response against the thyroid gland, potentially ameliorating the course of the disease.

Clinical Evidence

A meta-analysis involving 75 patients with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis revealed that Metformin effectively reduced levels of thyroid antibodies and significantly inhibited thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, illustrating its potential as a therapeutic agent.

DTE or LT4/T3 Combination Therapy

A shift towards exploring the effectiveness of Desiccated Thyroid Extract (DTE) or LT4/T3 combination therapy in managing Hashimoto's Thyroiditis has been noted.

Clinical Studies

A 2019 study with 75 patients evaluated the effectiveness of these therapies and found comparable effectiveness to the standard levothyroxine therapy, especially in individuals who didn't respond well to levothyroxine alone.

Individual Response Variability

These findings highlight the importance of individualized treatment plans that take into account the patient's unique response to different therapeutic agents.

Surgical Intervention: A Last Resort?

Surgical interventions like thyroidectomy have been explored as a possible treatment option for individuals with severe Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.

When is Surgery Recommended?

Surgery is typically considered when the thyroid gland enlarges to the point of causing breathing and swallowing problems. A 2019 study from Norway indicated that surgery had improved results over medication alone in alleviating symptoms and reducing antibody levels.

Surgical Outcomes

However, it's important to note that thyroidectomy doesn't eliminate the need for hormone replacement therapy but may contribute to better symptom management in select cases

Clinical Trials and Future Research

The horizon of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis treatment is expanding with ongoing research. Clinical trials play a pivotal role in understanding the efficacy and safety of new treatment modalities.

Ongoing Research

Numerous clinical trials are underway, investigating various aspects of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis treatment. These trials are crucial for validating new treatments and understanding individual response variability, which could pave the way for personalized treatment plans.

Future Implications

The findings from these trials could significantly impact the treatment landscape of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, providing more effective and tailored treatment options for patients. The HealthMatch platform is a valuable resource for keeping up with ongoing and upcoming clinical trials.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most effective treatment for Hashimoto's thyroiditis?

The most common and effective treatment is thyroid hormone replacement medication, such as levothyroxine, to treat the hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto's.

What is the current most common treatment of Hashimoto's hypothyroidism?

The current standard treatment for hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto's thyroiditis is levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone medication. The dose is adjusted based on regular monitoring of TSH levels to keep them within the normal range.

What are autoimmune drugs for Hashimoto's?

There are no medications that can stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid in Hashimoto's. However, some treatments that may help include:

  • Corticosteroids like prednisone to reduce inflammation short-term.

  • Immunosuppressants like methotrexate and cyclosporine.

  • Biologic medications like rituximab that target specific parts of the immune system.

Does Hashimoto's get worse with age?

Yes, typically Hashimoto's tends to progress over time and the thyroid damage from the autoimmune attack worsens with age. Many patients eventually develop more severe hypothyroidism later in life.

What foods to avoid if you have Hashimoto's?

Some foods to avoid or limit with Hashimoto's include:

  • Gluten, as it may trigger autoimmune reactions in some people.

  • Soy, as it may disrupt thyroid function especially in high amounts.

  • Certain raw vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower that are goitrogenic.

  • Sugary and highly processed foods that can promote inflammation.

What worsens Hashimoto's?

Factors that can worsen Hashimoto's include:- High stress levels, as stress affects immune function.- Pregnancy, due to the impact on the immune system.- Infections that trigger increased inflammation.- Iodine excess, which can promote thyroid cell damage.


What can make Hashimoto's worse?

In addition to the above factors, other things that can exacerbate Hashimoto's include:

  • Nutrient deficiencies like vitamin D, zinc, and selenium.

  • Leaky gut syndrome and food sensitivities.

  • Environmental toxins and endocrine disruptors.

  • Certain medications like lithium, interferon-alpha, and IL-2 inhibitors.

What does a Hashimoto's flare-up feel like?

Symptoms of a Hashimoto's flare-up may include:

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Weight gain

  • Hair loss

  • Dry skin

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Joint and muscle pain

  • Constipation

  • Depression

  • Irritability

  • Increased sensitivity to cold