The aim of this review is to summarize the current knowledge on Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and its pathogenesis and to introduce the readers to the basic concept of autoimmune thyroid disease. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease are different expressions of a basically similar autoimmune process, and the clinical appearance reflects the spectrum of the immune response in a particular patient. During this response, cytotoxic autoantibodies, stimulatory autoantibodies, blocking autoantibodies, or cellmediated autoimmunity may be observed. Persons with classic Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have serum antibodies reacting with thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase. These antibodies (particularly antibodies against thyroid peroxidase) are complement-fixing immunoglobulins and may be cytotoxic. In addition, many patients have cell-mediated immunity directed against thyroid antigens. Cell mediated-immunity is also a feature of experimental thyroiditis induced in animals by injection of thyroid antigen with adjuvants. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is predominantly the clinical expression of cell-mediated immunity leading to destruction of thyroid cells, which in its severest form causes thyroid failure. The significance of genetic component and nongenetic risk factors (pregnancy, drugs, age, sex, infection, and irradiation) in the development of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is also reviewed. Epidemiologic studies have demonstrated that the genetic component is important in the pathogenesis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, although the pattern of inheritance is non-Mendelian and is likely to be influenced by subtle variations in the functions of multiple genes. Nongenetic risk factors (environmental factors) are also etiologically important, because the concordance rate in monozygotic twins is below 1.
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