Thyroiditis is characterized by inflammation or swelling of the thyroid gland. It is important to note that the thyroid is a gland with the shape of a butterfly situated in the anterior part of the lower part of the neck amidst the Adam’s apple and breastbone.
The gland generates hormones that control metabolism. Once it is inflamed, it produces excess hormones which results to thyrotoxicosis. The initial phase of thyroiditis is known as the thyrotoxic phase.
After the excessive release of thyroid hormone for a few weeks or months, the gland does not have enough thyroid hormones to release, resulting to lack of hormones which is called hypothyroidism. This phase is known as the hypothyroid phase.
The euthyroid phase is characterized by normal levels of hormone. This phase might arise briefly after the thyrotoxic phase before progressing to the hypothyroid phase or can occur at the end after the gland has recovered from the inflammation and able to preserve a normal hormonal level.
What are the causes?
The thyroid can be attacked by various agents. This results to tenderness and damage to the thyroid cells, leading to thyroiditis. Some of the factors that might be responsible include antibodies, radiation, drugs and organisms (viruses and bacteria).
Certain conditions in which the body attacks itself are autoimmune disorders. Take note that thyroiditis can also be an autoimmune condition.
What are the indications?
The indications of thyroiditis are based on the type and its phase.
This phase is usually brief (1-3 months). If the cells are impaired rapidly and there is leakage of excess thyroid hormone, there are symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as:
- Being worried
- Difficulty sleeping
- Rapid heart rate
- Unplanned weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Increased sweating and heat intolerance
This is a long-lasting phase and might become permanent. If the cells are damaged and the hormone levels drops, the symptoms of hypothyroidism might arise such as:
- Unexpected weight gain
- Dry skin
- Difficulty performing physical activities
- Reduced mental ability to focus and concentrate
Management of thyroiditis
The treatment is based on the type, symptoms and phase of thyroiditis.
- Thyrotoxic phase (transient) – this will either recover and progress to the euthyroid phase or move to the hypothyroid phase. During the thyrotoxic phase, the treatment is symptomatic.
- Anxiety, palpitations, tremors, increased sweating and heat intolerance – these are managed using beta blockers
- Thyroidal pain – the pain can be managed using anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin. If the pain is intense, steroids might be needed.
- Hypothyroid phase – if needed, thyroid hormone replacement therapy is utilized which continues for 6-12 months.