Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. It can be permanent or transient. The most common type of thyroiditis is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune disease with high levels of antithyroid antibodies. The thyroid gland becomes firm and enlarged and eventually underactive. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a permanent condition.
There are several types of transient thyroiditis, also known as subacute thyroiditis. Painless, subacute thyroiditis results in thyrotoxicosis when the inflamed thyroid cells release too much thyroid hormone into the bloodstream. The inflammation and thyrotoxicosis usually last 1-2 months. Following this, there may be a period of hypothyroidism, lasting several months. Eventual recovery of normal thyroid function is the usual outcome in all forms of subacute thyroiditis.
Painful subacute thyroiditis is another transient condition with thyrotoxicosis for 1-2 months followed by hypothyroidism for several months. Another symptom in this condition during the thyrotoxic phase is neck pain, which may be severe. The pain may also involve the throat, jaw and ears. Patients with painful subacute thyroiditis may also have fever, fatigue and muscle and joint pain. Cortisone sometimes is needed to control these symptoms.
A third type of transient thyroiditis is postpartum thyroiditis. It begins around 5-7 months after delivery and runs a course similar to painless subacute thyroiditis.
Signs and Symptoms
- Swelling of the neck
- Pain in thyroid gland, jaws or ears
- Muscle and joint pain
Treatment for the hypothyroid phase, which may follow the thyrotoxic phase, consists of thyroid hormone replacement therapy taken in pill form once a day.
Treatment for the thyrotoxic phase is usually not necessary because most patients do not suffer bothersome symptoms. However, patients with more severe symptoms may benefit from temporary treatment with a beta adrenergic blocking agent. This medication blocks the action of thyroid hormone in the body, although levels of the hormone in the bloodstream remain unchanged. These drugs include propranolol (Inderal), atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Lopressor) and nadolol (Corgard).