Autoimmune thyroid disorders

Autoimmun Rev. 2015 Feb;14(2):174-80. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2014.10.016. Epub 2014 Oct 25.


Autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD) result from a dysregulation of the immune system leading to an immune attack on the thyroid. AITD are T cell-mediated organ-specific autoimmune disorders. The prevalence of AITD is estimated to be 5%; however, the prevalence of antithyroid antibodies may be even higher. The AITD comprise two main clinical presentations: Graves' disease (GD) and Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT), both characterized by lymphocytic infiltration of the thyroid parenchyma. The clinical hallmarks of GD and HT are thyrotoxicosis and hypothyroidism, respectively. The mechanisms that trigger the autoimmune attack to the thyroid are still under investigation. Epidemiological data suggest an interaction among genetic susceptibility and environmental triggers as the key factor leading to the breakdown of tolerance and the development of disease. Recent studies have shown the importance of cytokines and chemokines in the pathogenesis of AT and GD. In thyroid tissue, recruited T helper 1 (Th1) lymphocytes may be responsible for enhanced IFN-γ and TNF-α production, which in turn stimulates CXCL10 (the prototype of the IFN-γ-inducible Th1 chemokines) secretion from the thyroid cells, therefore creating an amplification feedback loop, initiating and perpetuating the autoimmune process. Associations exist between AITD and other organ specific (polyglandular autoimmune syndromes), or systemic autoimmune disorders (Sjögren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, systemic sclerosis, cryoglobulinemia, sarcoidosis, psoriatic arthritis). Moreover, several studies have shown an association of AITD and papillary thyroid cancer. These data suggest that AITD patients should be accurately monitored for thyroid dysfunctions, the appearance of thyroid nodules, and other autoimmune disorders.

Keywords: Autoimmune thyroid diseases; CXCL10; Chemokines; Cytokines; Graves' disease; Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / immunology
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / immunology*


  • Cytokines