What Is Thyroiditis?
Inflammation of the thyroid gland is called thyroiditis. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located below the Adam's apple in the lower part of the neck and wraps around the windpipe (trachea).
Thyroiditis refers to a group of disorders that cause inflammation of the thyroid, but which present in different ways, such as:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: the most common cause of low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) in the U.S.
- Postpartum thyroiditis: temporary high thyroid hormone levels in the blood (thyrotoxicosis) followed by temporary hypothyroidism after the delivery of a baby
- Subacute thyroiditis or de Quervain’s thyroiditis: a major cause of pain in the thyroid
- Drug-induced thyroiditis: results from taking drugs such as interferon, amiodarone, lithium, and cytokines
- Radiation-induced thyroiditis: caused by radiation treatments for cancer, or by radioactive iodine used to treat hyperthyroidism
- Acute thyroiditis or suppurative thyroiditis (rare): caused by an infection
What Are Symptoms of Thyroiditis?
Symptoms of inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis) include:
- Low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism)
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Reduced exercise tolerance
- Problems with concentration and mental focus
- High thyroid hormone levels in the blood (hyperthyroidism and thyrotoxicosis)
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Heart palpitations (fast heart rate)
- Weight loss
- Sweating/heat intolerance
- Increased appetite
- Pain in the thyroid
What Causes Thyroiditis?
Inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis) is caused by some sort of attack on the thyroid, such as:
- Antibodies (the most common cause), such as in autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis
- Infection from viruses or bacteria
- Use of drugs such as interferon, amiodarone, lithium, and cytokines
- Radiation treatments for cancer or radioactive iodine used to treat hyperthyroidism
How Is Thyroiditis Diagnosed?
Tests for inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis) may include:
- Thyroid function tests
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- T3 and T4 in the blood
- Thyroid antibody tests to measure thyroid antibodies
- Antithyroid (microsomal) antibodies (TPO)
- Thyroid receptor stimulating antibodies (TRAb)
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate) to measure inflammation
- Ultrasound of the thyroid which may show:
- Nodules (growths)
- Changes in blood flow (Doppler mode)
- Echo texture (intensity/density) of the gland
- Radioactive iodine uptake (RAIU)
What Is the Treatment for Thyroiditis?
Treatment for inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis) depends on the type of thyroiditis and the symptoms.
- Treatment for thyrotoxicosis includes beta blockers to decrease palpitations (fast heart rate) and decrease tremors
- Treatment for low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) includes thyroid hormone replacement
- Treatment for thyroid pain includes anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Steroids such as prednisone may be used if pain is severe.
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