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Thyroiditis

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Thyroiditis is the inflammation of the thyroid gland. There are many types of thyroiditis, each having a different line of treatment.

Overview

Thyroiditis can be a permanent condition or occur as a transient condition. It arises due to a variety of reasons. It can either be due to an infection, autoimmune disease or have iatrogenic causes. Thyroiditis is a general term that is used to describe the group of individual disorders leading to thyroid inflammation.

Types of Thyroiditis

Thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck. It produces hormones that help with the growth and metabolism. These hormones also help in regulation of the body temperature, heart rate as well as help in conversion of food into energy. There are different types of thyroiditis, each having a different implication on the body and its functions. These include:

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

This is the most common type of thyroiditis. It is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the affected people. It is an autoimmune condition, where the body’s immune system attacks the cells of the thyroid gland. This condition takes months or years before it can get detected as it a slowly progressing disease.

Subacute Thyroiditis

This painful swelling of the thyroid gland is also known as De Quervain’s thyroiditis. It is thought to be triggered by a viral infection like mumps or flu. It is very common in women of 20-50 age bracket. The condition resolves after a few days of treatment, but takes many weeks before the thyroid gland completely recovers.

Infectious Thyroiditis

Acute or infectious thyroiditis is triggered by a bacterial infection. It leads to swelling of the thyroid gland along with high or low thyroid  hormonelevels. The infection is treated with antibiotics and the thyroid pain is managed with painkillers.

Postpartum Thyroiditis

Postpartum thyroiditis is also an autoimmune disease. It occurs in women who have just delivered a baby. This causes a temporary rise in the hormone levels, that is, thyrotoxicosis. After about 4 to 8 months, there is a fall in hormone levels, leading to hypothyroidism. However, not all women with post-partum thryroiditis will go through both these phases.

Painless Thyroiditis

Painless thyroiditis is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. It too occurs in phases of thyrotoxicosis and then hypothyroidism. The symptoms will then resolve after about 12 to 18 months.

Drug-induced Thyroiditis

Thyroiditis that is triggered by use of medications like interferon, amiodarone as well as drugs for the treatment of cancer is considered drug-induced. This condition usually gets better after the use of drugs or treatment is stopped.

Radiation-induced Thyroiditis

When an overactive thyroid gland is treated with radiation therapy or certain cancers requiring radiation therapy, it can lead to damage of the thyroid gland.

Symptoms of Thyroiditis

There are different symptoms of thyroiditis that are very similar to other conditions. This makes it very difficult to diagnose thyroiditis. Some of the common symptoms of slow progressing and chronic thyroiditis include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation

When one develops acute thyroiditis, it leads to symptoms similar to hyperthyroidism. These symptoms include:

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  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

Some of the rare symptoms of thyroiditis include:

  • Swelling of the legs
  • Vague pain in the body
  • Low concentration levels
  • Puffy eyes
  • Slow heart rate

Causes of Thyroiditis

From the types of thyroiditis, it is easy to understand the causes. Thryroiditis can occur due to an infection, autoimmune diseases or as a reaction to drugs used for treatment of other conditions.

Diagnosis of Thyroiditis

Diagnosis is based on the blood test results. The tests conducted include elevated thyroglobulin levels, elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rates, and depressed radioactive iodine intake. In some cases, a thyroid biopsy may also be conducted.

Treatment for Thyroiditis

Treatment depends on the type of thyroiditis. Generally,treatment includes the use of hormone replacement therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, steroids to reduce inflammation and controlling palpitations.

Thyroiditis is a manageable condition with treatment. If you suffer from the above symptoms for more than 2 weeks, get yourself examined by a doctor. A simple blood test my help in detection of thyroiditis and find a solution to your health problems.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 01, 2015