Informing & Supporting Thyroid Patients Since 1985

Thyroid Disorders & Treatments Thyroid Related Disorders

Overview: Autoimmune Disorders

From time to time, physicians have recognized situations in which diseases occur together more often than chance alone would allow. In 1926, M. B. Schmidt, a physician in Germany, described two patients in whom both the adrenal and thyroid glands had failed. Since then, more than 125 patients with both disorders have been described, enough to make us realize that something more than an "accident of nature" makes this rare combination happen.

In several places on this website we have commented on the relationship between Graves' disease and Hashimoto's disease, which tend to occur in the same families, sometimes in the same patients, and which seem to be different presentations of a single disease process.

There are other conditions that tend to occur in patients with Graves' disease and Hashimoto's disease and in their relatives as well. Some, like the prominent eyes of Graves' disease known as exophthalmos, have been well-studied and their relationship to thyroid problems carefully examined. Others, such as some of the associated skin disorders, are less well understood in regard to their relationship to the thyroid.

These articles are not about those bodily changes that occur due to high or low thyroid hormone levels. High hormone levels, for example, can raise your upper eyelids, make your skin soft and smooth, and cause your hair to become fine and delicate. The high hormone levels do not, however, cause your eyes to protrude, make the white patches of vitiligo appear on your skin, or produce the patchy baldness we call alopecia areata.

The latter problems are diseases in their own right. These are not, in general, serious problems about which thyroid patients should be concerned. Many, like alopecia areata, are not helped much by treatment, and tend to go away after a period of time. Others, like pernicious anemia or vitiligo, can be cured or controlled by appropriate treatment. Some, like Addison's disease, are so uncommon that even thyroid specialists rarely see a patient with this condition. Nevertheless, we believe there should be a place on this website to which patients with Graves' disease or Hashimoto's disease can refer if they discover that they or one of their relatives has one of these problems.