Hashimoto's thyroiditis: An update on pathogenic mechanisms, diagnostic protocols, therapeutic strategies, and potential malignant transformation

Autoimmun Rev. 2020 Oct;19(10):102649. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2020.102649. Epub 2020 Aug 15.


Hashimoto's thyroiditis, characterized by thyroid-specific autoantibodies, is one of the commonest autoimmune disorders. Although the exact etiology has not been fully elucidated, Hashimoto's thyroiditis is related to an interaction among genetic elements, environmental factors and epigenetic influences. Cellular and humoral immunity play a key role in the development of the disease; thus, a T and B cells inflammatory infiltration is frequently found. Histopathologic features of the disease include lymphoplasmacytic infiltration, lymphoid follicle formation with germinal centers, and parenchymal atrophy. Moreover, the occurrence of large follicular cells and oxyphilic or Askanazy cells is frequently associated to Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Clinically, Hashimoto's thyroiditis is characterized mainly by systemic manifestations due to the damage of the thyroid gland, developing a primary hypothyroidism. Diagnosis of Hashimoto's thyroiditis is clinical and based on clinical characteristics, positivity to serum antibodies against thyroid antigens (thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin), and lymphocytic infiltration on cytological examination. The mainstream of treatment is based on the management of the hypothyroidism with a substitution therapy. A relationship between Hashimoto's thyroiditis and a possible malignant transformation has been proposed in several studies and involves immunological/hormonal pathogenic links although specific correlation is still debated and needs to be further investigated with prospective studies.

Keywords: Autoimmune thyroid disorders; Autoimmunity; Hashimoto's thyroiditis; Hypothyroidism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hashimoto Disease* / immunology
  • Hashimoto Disease* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Thyroglobulin


  • Thyroglobulin