Inside Zoe Saldana's Experience With Hashimoto's Disease

Award-winning sci-fi action queen Zoe Yadira Saldaña-Perego played a breakthrough role as Nyota Uhura in 2009's "Star Trek" and later in 2016's "Star Trek Beyond." But the actor may be best known for her lead actress roles as Neytiri in "Avatar" (2009) and Gamora in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" trilogy (2014-2023).

Saldaña's acting career has often required resilience, strength, and intensity, including six months of intensive training in martial arts and horseback riding in preparation for "Avatar" (per IMDb). The unstoppable actor was eight months pregnant by the time she wrapped filming on 2017's "I Kill Giants" and returned to work on "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018) two months after giving birth to son Zen.

With such high-intensity, high-energy roles under her belt, it's easy to assume that Saldaña is the picture of perfect health, but as it turns out, she has Hashimoto's thyroiditis. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease that erroneously triggers antibodies to attack the thyroid.

Several risk factors may have contributed to Saldaña's development of the disease. Women are seven times as susceptible as men to the disease, and heredity plays a substantial role. WebMD notes that Saldaña's mother and two sisters have Hashimoto's. 

Saldaña showed signs of Hashimoto's from a young age

Saldaña was diagnosed in her 30s, although she and her sisters showed markers for Hashimoto's much earlier. "My mother struggled with Hashimoto's early on in her life — fighting fatigue, wanting to live a more active life, constantly feeling like her body was inflamed — and we were already showing markers for it from bloodwork [we had done] as teenagers. At 17, I showed signs of an overactive thyroid," says Saldaña (via WebMD). 

Symptoms of Hashimoto's can include either underactive or overactive thyroid activity (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). In Saldaña's case, her condition began with an overactive thyroid, called hyperthyroidism, per WebMD. Symptoms include panic attacks, anxiety, weight loss, and rapid heart rate. But the actor didn't experience major symptoms in the early stages.

"I had normal anxiety. I was just super-curious about life, eager to conquer the world. I never felt unhappy or felt heart problems. I was always on the slender side," says the actress, who studied dance in her teens. "Then, talking to doctors, I learned how the thyroid can burn out quickly [from over-activity]. That was my case."

After the thyroid "burns out," the thyroid can become underactive, called hypothyroidism per WebMD. Hypothyroidism is marked by fatigue, weight gain, joint and muscle pain, depression, and other symptoms.