What is Thyroiditis?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located near your Adam’s apple that produces the hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).4 T3 and T4 regulate all aspects of your metabolism, such as the rate at which your body uses carbohydrates, your body temperature, and your protein production.3

Thyroiditis is thyroid gland inflammation (swelling).7 Thyroiditis symptoms may include fatigue, weight gain, and constipation.5,7 Your thyroiditis treatment will depend on the type and cause of your inflammation symptoms.5 Our self-guided physician directory can help you determine which treatment is right for you.

Thyroiditis Causes

When the thyroid hormone becomes inflamed it produces more hormones than usual. After weeks or months of excessive hormone release, the thyroid’s hormones become depleted, causing hypothyroidism.7

There are different kinds of thyroiditis. Each type has a different cause:5,6,7

  • Hashimoto’s disease: The most common type of thyroiditis, this autoimmune condition is caused by anti-thyroid antibodies. Your immune system attacks your thyroid gland, weakening it to the point that it can no longer produce hormones.
  • Subacute thyroiditis (de Quervain’s thyroiditis): Thought to be caused by a virus, this condition causes your thyroid to produce too many hormones.
  • Silent thyroiditis (painless thyroiditis): This autoimmune disease is also caused by anti-thyroid antibodies. It is known as silent and painless because it does not cause any symptoms.
  • Post-partum thyroiditis: An autoimmune disease caused by anti-thyroid antibodies, it occurs in women within a year after childbirth, particularly in those with a history of thyroid issues.
  • Drug induced: This rare condition is caused by the use of drugs like amiodarone, lithium, interferons and cytokines.
  • Radiation induced: This is caused by exposure to radiation, often from cancer treatment.
  • Acute thyroiditis or suppurative thyroiditis: This rare condition is caused by infectious organisms, mainly bacteria.

Thyroiditis Symptoms

Symptoms of hypothyroidism may become permanent and can include: 5,7

  • Constipation
  • Dry Skin
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle aches
  • Decreased ability to focus or concentrate

Thyroiditis Diagnosis

The following blood tests diagnose thyroiditis:8

  • Thyroid function test: measures the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), T3, or T4 in the blood
  • Thyroid antibody test: detects the presence of thyroid antibodies, which signal the presence of an autoimmune disease
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate): measures how fast red blood cells fall, which indicates the presence of inflammation. Subacute thyroiditis tends to cause a high ERS

Other tests that can be used to diagnose thyroiditis include:8

  • Thyroid scan: uses radioactive material to perform imaging of the thyroid
  • Ultrasound: a sonogram of the thyroid can show specific features of the gland’s anatomy, such as nodules (growths) on the tissues or changes in blood flow
  • Radioactive iodine uptake (RAIU): measures how much radioactive material is absorbed by the thyroid gland (in the thyrotoxic phase, the amount is always low)
  • Biopsy: a small thyroid tissue sample is extracted for further study

Thyroiditis Treatment

Thyroiditis treatment depends on your diagnosis. Some of the more common treatments include:5,6,9

  • Anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin or ibuprofen) to treat thyroid pain
  • Beta blockers to treat increased heartrate, anxiety, tremors, heat intolerance, and increased sweating
  • Thyroid hormone replacement therapy to treat hypothyroidism
  • Treating the cause of the infection caused by the infectious organisms or bacteria

Drug-induced thyroiditis generally lasts as long as the drugs are taken.9 In rare cases, if other treatments have failed, surgery may be recommended.5 It may include the partial removal of the thyroid gland (hemi-thyroidectomy or thyroid lobectomy) or removal of the entire gland (near-total thyroidectomy). 11

Your healthcare provider will help you decide which treatment is best for you. With the exception of Hashimoto's thyroiditis (a lifelong condition that requires continuous treatment9), most people who are treated recover from thyroiditis within 12-18 months. 10

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Thyroiditis doesn’t have to disrupt your lifestyle. To find a thyroid doctor near you that can determine which treatment will benefit you most, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of thyroiditis?

If your thyroid is producing too few hormones, you may suffer from fatigue, dry skin, and weight gain.7

What does it mean when you test positive for thyroid antibodies?

The presence of thyroid antibodies indicates that you may have a form of thyroiditis caused by an autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.7 While the reasons why some patients create thyroid antibodies is unknown, it is believed to be hereditary. 6

What is silent thyroiditis?

Silent thyroiditis, also known as painless thyroiditis, is a type of autoimmune disease in which your body attacks your thyroid gland with anti-thyroid antibodies.7 It usually doesn’t present symptoms.5

What is a subacute thyroiditis?

Also known as de Quervain's thyroiditis, this form of thyroiditis is caused by viral infection. 7

What is Riedel's thyroiditis?

Riedel's thyroiditis is a very rare disease in which dense scar tissue (fibrosis) replaces healthy thyroid tissue. The condition may cause breathing and speaking difficulties.2 Medications (like corticosteroids and tamoxifen) and surgery may be used to treat the condition.1

What blood tests can diagnose thyroiditis?

There are many types of blood tests that can detect thyroid problems, such as thyroid function tests (which measure the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood) and thyroid antibody tests (which can detect the presence of an autoimmune condition).8 Click here to learn more about thyroid hormone blood tests.

References:

1. Guerin, Chris K. “Riedel Thyroiditis Treatment & Management.” Medscape. Griffing George T, English, Mar 07, 2017, https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/125243-treatment. Accessed April 2, 2018.

2. Guerin, Chris K. “Riedel Thyroiditis.” Medscape. George T Griffing, English, Mar 07, 2017, https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/125243-overview#a4. Accessed April 2, 2018.

3. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).” MayoClinic.org. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284. Published December 6, 2017. Accessed April 2, 2018.

4. Northrup, Christiane. “What is Thyroid Disease? Common Thyroid Disease Symptoms To Look For.” Christiane Northrup, M.D. Christiane Northrup, October 24, 2017, https://www.drnorthrup.com/thyroid-disease/. Accessed April 2, 2018.

5. Ratini, Melinda. “What Is Thyroiditis?” WebMD. WebMD, LLC, 2017, https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-thyroiditis#1. Accessed April 2, 2018.

6. “Thyroiditis.” American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org/thyroiditis/. Accessed April 2, 2018.

7. “Thyroiditis.” Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, January 28, 2014, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15455-thyroiditis. Accessed April 2, 2018.

8. “Thyroiditis: Diagnosis and Tests.” Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, January 28, 2014, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15455-thyroiditis/diagnosis-and-tests. Accessed April 2, 2018.

9. “Thyroiditis: Management and Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, January 28, 2014, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15455-thyroiditis/management-and-treatment. Accessed April 2, 2018.

10. “Thyroiditis: Outlook / Prognosis.” Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, January 28, 2014, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15455-thyroiditis/outlook--prognosis. Accessed April 2, 2018.

11. “Thyroid Surgery.” American Thyroid Association. https://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-surgery/. Accessed April 2, 2018.