Epstein Barr Virus And Thyroid

Exploring The Possibility Of A Connection Between Thyroid Function, Hashimoto’s Disease And Epstein Barr Virus

Thyroid function plays a more significant role in the body than many realize.

The hormones secreted into the blood by the Thyroid gland is transported throughout the entire body, towards every single cell. At a cellular level, Thyroid hormones are responsible for the regulation of metabolism – these hormones help to convert calories consumed into energy, which cells can then use to perform their particular functions.

Thyroid hormones are produced and secreted by the Thyroid gland as the body needs them – when the body needs more, the pituitary gland sends Thyroid Stimulating Hormone to the Thyroid gland, which is a hormone that signals the Thyroid gland of the need for more hormones1. This process is known as the Thyroid Feedback Loop.

Normally, this process works effectively – the pituitary gland detects a reduction in Thyroid hormones, tells the Thyroid that more hormones are needed, then the Thyroid Gland produces the necessary hormones. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone.

For around 2% of the population2, with a primary focus on women, a deficiency of Thyroid hormones is causing problems like fatigue, weight gain, digestive issues, and more. Another 2% of the population, once again with a primary focus on the female population, suffers from conditions that cause Thyroid hormone levels in their bodies to become higher than normal.

Thyroid disorders are relatively common, especially amongst women, and can lead to a number of adverse symptoms that could produce unpleasant complications in a patient’s life.

Determining how Thyroid disorders are triggered, and identifying more accurate details on possible connections shared between Thyroid disorders and other health conditions, can assist physicians and the general health care industry provide better treatment approaches to help address the underlying causes leading to elevated or insufficient Thyroid hormone levels.

Recent studies have presented evidence that a connection may exist between Epstein Barr Virus and autoimmune Thyroid conditions, including disorders that are caused by Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease.

Previous studies have presented data that presented evidence of a connection between the Epstein Barr Virus and systemic autoimmune diseases, including Rheumatoid Arthritis and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

In this post, we would like to explore the possible connection that may reside between the Epstein Barr Virus and autoimmune conditions that causes changes in Thyroid function.

An Overview Of The Epstein Barr Virus

The Epstein Barr Virus is a relatively common virus infection that affects people of all ages. This virus is a common cause of mononucleosis, a condition that is often referred to as the “kissing diseases” or simply referred to as “mono”.

The reason for these alternative names is mostly due to the fact that the condition can quickly spread from one individual to another, often through kissing3.

A particular problem facing the health care sector regarding the Epstein Barr Virus is that many people may be infected without them knowing about their infection – the virus can be present in the human body without causing any symptoms. It can lay dormant for an extended period of time, and then become activated at some point in the future.

Individuals affected with the Epstein Barr Virus may also experience a recurrence of the condition – when treated, symptoms may disappear, but the virus may continue to be present in the body. At a later date, the virus may become reactivated, causing the patient to experience a flare-up of the symptoms caused by the virus again.

Causes And Risk Factors For Epstein Barr Virus

The reason why the Epstein Barr Virus is so common is mostly due to the fact that the virus is very contagious, and is transferred between people in certain circumstances.

Close interaction that involves saliva or another bodily fluid is usually the prime method of transferring the disease from one person to another person. Semen can also carry the virus to another person, which makes sexual intercourse another potential cause for the transmission of the virus.

In addition to close contact, the virus can also be transferred between two people through an organ transplant and through a blood transfusion4.

There are some risk factors that individuals should be aware of – the presence of these risk factors means a particular individual is at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Women seem to be more commonly affected by the Epstein Barr Virus when compared to men.

Being Caucasian also causes a possible increased risk of contracting the virus. Other particular risk factors include having an impairment with the immune system, being a person who is regularly sexually active, and also those who reside within a tropical location.

Symptoms Of Epstein Barr Virus

The Epstein Barr Virus itself is not associated with any significant symptoms in most cases, and many people have this virus in their bodies without being aware of it. When the virus causes the common condition mononucleosis, then the patient may start to experience symptoms that are associated with mononucleosis.

Particular symptoms that a patient should be wary of include a fever, combined with fatigue and an inflamed throat.

The lymph nodes in the patient’s neck may also become inflamed and enlarged. Additional symptoms may include a rash, a liver that becomes inflamed, and an enlargement of the spleen5.

Complications Of Epstein Barr Virus

There are some complications that need to be taken into account when diagnosed with an Epstein Barr Virus infection. Both acute and chronic complications may develop when a patient is infected with this virus, especially when no treatment protocol is implemented to suppress the activity of the virus.

Individuals who suffer from an impaired immune function should be especially concerned when they learn they have antibodies that suggest the presence of the Epstein Barr Virus.

There are several complications that a patient may become a victim of should they fail to adequately suppress the virus, or should they suffer from a significant impairment in their immune function.

One of the most worrisome complications that may be caused by an infection with the Epstein Barr Virus is viral meningitis, a condition where the tissue that covers the spinal cord and brain becomes inflamed6. Additional possible complications that patients should be made aware of include the development of Guillain-Barre syndrome, possible paralysis of the patient’s facial muscles, as well as a single side of their body.

The eye’s nerves may also become swollen, inflammation can develop in the spinal cord, and the brain may also become swollen.

While a weak immune system can lead to a higher risk of suffering from complications due to an infection with the Epstein Barr Virus, it should be noted that a possible complication of the virus can be a weakening of the immune system.

Apart from the above-mentioned complications, we should also note that an association has also been made between the Epstein Barr Virus and the following conditions7:

  • Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  • B cell lymphomas
  • Hodgkin’s disease

Treatment Approaches For Epstein Barr Virus

Firstly, it should be noted that no cure has yet been developed for the Epstein Barr Virus.

Once infected, the disease will stay contained in the human body and may become activated at some points, leading to the development of mononucleosis or another particular type of condition considered a possible complication of the virus.

It is possible to suppress the activation of the virus, and possibly also avoid the development of mononucleosis, or other complications, in many patients.

Antiviral drugs are often utilized in patients who have tested positive for the presence of the Epstein Barr Virus8.

These drugs work by inhibiting the replication of the Epstein Barr Virus. DNA polymerase involved in viral infections, such as this particular pathogenic virus, is also targeted through the use of antiviral drugs. When a complication develops, such as mononucleosis, a physician may also choose to provide adequate treatment to assist with relieving the symptoms and getting rid of the complication.

Implementing certain strategies to help improve the efficiency of the immune system may also be useful in some cases. There are different options that people can utilize when they wish to improve their immune function.

Exercise9 and diet are two particular areas where healthier options can contribute to significant improvements in immune function. What a person eats have a major impact on how they feel, as well as on how their body functions.

By consuming a healthy and balanced diet, a person gains an adequate supply of proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals – all essential to a healthy body, including for the purpose of maintaining a healthy immune system.

The Possible Connection Between Epstein Barr Virus And Impaired Thyroid Function

There is a complex, yet possible connection that exists between autoimmune Thyroid diseases and the Epstein Barr Virus.

This connection was made after studies have pointed out that, similar to in other autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus10, the presence of the Epstein Barr Virus is relatively common amongst individuals who have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that affects the Thyroid gland11.

The primary autoimmune disease that has been associated with a possible connection to the Epstein Barr Virus is Hashimoto’s disease. T

his autoimmune disease causes the immune system to attack the Thyroid gland, leading to inflammation in the gland and also an impairment in its ability to produce enough Thyroid hormones in response to the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone secreted by the pituitary gland.

It should be noted that further research is still needed to provide more data on how this connection exists, and what particular complications may be associated with the relationship.

Current data suggests that the Epstein Barr Virus should not be considered the sole and direct cause of Hashimoto’s disease or another autoimmune Thyroid disease in patients where both conditions are present.

Instead, the presence of the Epstein Barr Virus in a patient with an autoimmune Thyroid disease should rather be considered a contributing factor – a pathogen that contributes to an excess release of antibodies that act against the Thyroid gland.

Existing data may be helpful in determining a more efficient approach in the diagnosis and treatment of Hashimoto’s disease and Hypothyroidism, and possibly other Thyroid diseases as well.

Even though a cure has not yet been found for the Epstein Barr Virus, suppression of the virus may assist with providing a reduction in antithyroid antibody production, possibly not only leading to improvements in the symptoms caused by the virus, but also possibly causing a better approach to managing the Thyroid disease.

Conclusion

Thyroid disorders are common in the general population and may be caused by a number of factors, including autoimmune reactions.

Several diseases, systemic illnesses and infections have been linked to Thyroid autoimmune diseases. The Epstein Barr Virus, in particular, holds some evidence that suggests individuals who are infected with this virus may develop problems with their Thyroid function.

Patients who have already been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease or an underactive Thyroid gland may also experience a worsening of the symptoms related to Hypothyroidism, due to the release of antibodies that act upon the Thyroid gland.

References

1 Robert M. Sargis. How Your Thyroid Works. Endocrine Web. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-your-thyroid-works

2 Mark P.J. Vanderpump. The epidemiology of thyroid disease. Oxford Academic. 1 September 2011. https://academic.oup.com/bmb/article/99/1/39/298307

3 Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/epstein-barr-virus#1

4 John P. Cunha. Epstein-Barr Virus. eMedicine Health. https://www.emedicinehealth.com/epstein-barr_virus_infection/article_em.htm#what_are_epstein-barr_virus_infection_symptoms_and_signs

5 About Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/epstein-barr/about-ebv.html

6 Cathy Cassata. What is the Epstein-Barr Virus? Everyday Health. 10 February 2015. https://www.everydayhealth.com/mononucleosis/guide/epstein-barr/

7 Jeffrey I. Cohen. Optimal Treatment for Chronic Active Epstein-Barr Virus Disease. HHS Public Access. 1 June 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776035/

8 Edward Gershburg, Joseph S. Pagano. Epstein-Barr virus infections: prospects for treatment. Oxford Academic, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. 8 July 2005. https://academic.oup.com/jac/article/56/2/277/837426

9 Multiple Authors. Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 5 September 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26477922

10 Draborg A.H., Duus K., Houen G. Epstein-Barr virus in systemic autoimmune diseases. U.S. National Library of Health. 24 August 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24062777

11 Multiple Authors. A possible link between the Epstein-Barr virus infection and autoimmune thyroid disorders. Central European Journal of Immunology. 25 October 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5099387/

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Hert September 24, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Hi,
    thank you for all the information on Theroid disorders.
    I read that Epstein Barr virus can cause antithyroid antibody production.
    But.
    I got 45 years ago Epstein Barr virus and later a hyper active thyroid, hypertheroid.
    This is not mentioned here.
    I do not treat it with medicins and try to live with it.
    But now I got CLL , chronic leukemia.
    ..
    I wonder if this chain of auto-immune disseases started with the Epstein Barr virus in my youth.
    ..
    There are many articals about suppliments and best diet etc on thyrod problems but not much on HYPERthyroid.
    can you give me some links on this?

    Thank you for all the good info ,
    Friendly regards,
    Hert

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