Inflammation of The Thyroid

What is this Condition?

When bacteria or viruses invade the body, they may attack the thyroid and cause it to become inflamed. Thyroid gland inflammation occurs in several forms: as a long-term autoimmune inflammation, as a self-limiting subacute granulomatous inflammation, or as several miscellaneous disorders (acute suppurative, chronic infective, and chronic noninfective inflammations). A postpartum form strikes women within I year after delivery. Inflammation of the thyroid is more common in women than in men.

What Causes it?

Autoimmune inflammation of the thyroid results from the immune system’s response to thyroid antigens that occur naturally in the blood. Subacute granulomatous inflammation of the thyroid usually follows mumps, influenza, coxsackievirus, or adenovirus infection.

Miscellaneous forms may result from a variety of causes. Acute suppurative thyroiditis may be caused by bacterial invasion of the gland. Chronic injective thyroiditis may be caused by tuberculosis, syphilis, actinomycosis, or other infectious agents. Chronic noninfective thyroiditis may be caused by sarcoidosis or amyloidosis.

What are its Symptoms?

The autoimmune form usually does not produce symptoms. It commonly occurs in women, with peak incidence in middle age. It’s the most prevalent cause of spontaneous hypothyroidism.

In subacute granulomatous inflammation, moderate thyroid enlargement may follow an upper respiratory tract infection or a sore throat. The thyroid may be painful and tender, and the person may have difficulty swallowing.

Clinical effects of miscellaneous inflammation are characteristic of pus-forming infection: fever, pain, tenderness, and reddened skin over the gland.

How is it Diagnosed?

Lab tests are the key to accurate diagnosis. Test results vary according to the type of thyroid inflammation.

How is it Treated?

Appropriate treatment varies with the type of thyroid inflammation. Drug therapy includes Levoxine for accompanying hypothyroidism, pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs for mild, subacute granulomatous inflammation, Inderal for transient hyperthyroidism, and steroids for severe episodes of acute inflammation. Suppurative inflammation requires antibiotic therapy.

What can a Person with Inflammation of the Thyroid do?

Watch for and report symptoms of hypothyroidism (sluggishness, restlessness, sensitivity to cold, forgetfulness, dry skin).

Be aware that you’ll need lifelong thyroid hormone therapy if hypothyroidism occurs. If you’re taking this medication, watch for signs of overdose, such as nervousness and palpitations.

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