What Are the Symptoms of An Inflamed Thyroid?

Reviewed on 8/18/2020

What Is Thyroiditis?

Thyroiditis is the inflammation of the thyroid gland causing different symptoms based on the type -- hyperthyroidism means the gland is overproducing hormones, while hypothyroidism is the opposite. Both can be caused by thyroiditis.
Thyroiditis is the inflammation of the thyroid gland causing different symptoms based on the type -- hyperthyroidism means the gland is overproducing hormones, while hypothyroidism is the opposite. Both can be caused by 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:

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 

SLIDESHOW

Hyperthyroidism Symptoms and Treatment See Slideshow

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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Reviewed on 8/18/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference