What is HE/SREAT?
Hashimoto’s encephalopathy is an uncommon medical condition in which it is believed a person’s immune system attacks the brain, or possibly the blood vessels supplying the brain. This disrupts the function of the brain and nervous system, causing a variety of cognitive, neurological and / or neuropsychiatric symptoms.
It is a type of autoimmune encephalitis.
The symptoms HE/SREAT were first described in 1966 when the medical journal, The Lancet, published an article by British physicians who reported an unusual case involving a 48-year old man who presented with hypothyroidism, multiple episodes of encephalopathy, stroke-like symptoms and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis confirmed by elevated anti-thyroid antibodies: thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO) and/or thyroglobulin antibody (TgAb).
In the ensuing years, physicians around the globe have continued to encounter similar patients who present with a perplexing array of symptoms which may include seizures, cognitive impairment, movement disorders, speech disturbances, ataxia, sleep disorders, and sometimes psychosis. Some cases have resulted in coma and even death.
Between 1966 and 1999, although physicians continued to encounter such patients around the world there was little published scientific research regarding the disease responsible for their symptoms. A few physicians even posited that they were really suffering from a form of conversion disorder. Fortunately, the number of research studies looking into this poorly understood condition has escalated rapidly since 2000.
In the last few years, researchers studying Hashimoto’s encephalopathy have proposed a variety of different names for the disease, including Steroid Responsive Encephalopathy Associated with Thyroiditis (“SREAT”); Encephalopathy Associated with Autoimmune Thyroid Disease (“EAATD”); and Non-vasculitic Autoimmune Inflammatory Meningoencephalitis (“NAIM”). Others prefer to refer to it using the more generic term Autoimmune Encephalopathy (“AE”), which includes an ever-growing number of autoimmune diseases characterized by cognitive impairment and disruptions in the central nervous system.
Most scientists believe the name “Hashimoto’s encephalopathy” is ill-advised since the disease is not causally related to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (“HT”).
Until scientists find common ground and settle on an accepted name, this website will use “HE” as a shorthand way of referring to Hashimoto’s encephalopathy/steroid responsive encephalopathy associated with thyroiditis (“HE/SREAT”).
HE is recognized as a rare disease by the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Office of Rare Diseases Research, which refers to it as “Hashimoto’s encephalitis.”
Last edited by Web Team on June 20th, 2016