What Is Subacute Thyroiditis?
Thyroiditis refers to the
inflammation of the thyroid. Your thyroid is
a gland in the front of your neck that releases a variety of hormones. These
hormones help regulate metabolism, the process that converts food into energy.
They also play a crucial role in your physical and emotional responses, such as
fear, excitement, and pleasure.
Thyroiditis includes a group of
disorders that cause the thyroid to become inflamed. Most types of thyroiditis
typically lead to either hyperthyroidism or
is a disorder in which the thyroid is overactive and produces too many
is a disease in which the thyroid is underactive and doesn’t make enough
hormones. Both of these conditions cause weight changes, anxiety, and fatigue.
thyroiditis is a rare type of thyroiditis
that causes pain and discomfort in the thyroid. Individuals with this condition
will also have symptoms of hyperthyroidism and later develop symptoms of
Subacute thyroiditis is slightly more
common in women aged 40 to 50 than it is in men of the same age. It generally occurs
after an upper respiratory infection, such as the flu or the mumps.
What Are the Symptoms of Subacute
Unlike other forms of thyroiditis,
subacute thyroiditis causes pain in the thyroid gland. In some cases, this pain
might also spread to other parts of your neck, your ears, or your jaw. Your
thyroid may be swollen and tender to the touch.
Other symptoms of subacute thyroiditis
- a fever
- difficulty swallowing
Most people typically develop
hyperthyroidism in the initial stages of subacute thyroiditis. The symptoms
during this stage of the disease may include:
- trouble concentrating
- sudden weight loss
- a fast or irregular heartbeat
- an increased body temperature that often leads
to excessive sweating
As the disease progresses,
hypothyroidism generally replaces hyperthyroidism. You’ll likely develop a new
set of symptoms, including:
- sudden weight gain
- heavy menstrual periods
The first stage of subacute
thyroiditis usually lasts for less than three months. The second stage may last
for an additional nine to 15 months.
How Is Subacute Thyroiditis Diagnosed?
Your doctor will feel and examine your
neck to see if the thyroid gland is enlarged or inflamed. They’ll also ask you
about your symptoms and your recent medical history. Your doctor will be more
likely to check for subacute thyroiditis if you’ve recently had a viral
infection in the upper respiratory tract.
Your doctor will order a blood test to
confirm a subacute thyroiditis diagnosis. This test will check the levels of
certain hormones in your blood. Specifically, the blood test will measure your
thyroid hormone, or free T4, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. The
free T4 and TSH levels are part of what’s called an “internal feedback loop.”
When one level is high, the other level is low, and vice versa.
The results of the blood test will
vary depending on the stage of the disease. In the initial stages, your free T4
levels will be high while your TSH levels will be low. In the later stages,
your TSH levels will be high while your T4 levels will be low. An abnormal
level of either hormone indicates subacute thyroiditis.
How Is Subacute Thyroiditis Treated?
Your doctor will give you medications
to help reduce the pain and control inflammation. In some cases, this is the
only treatment required for subacute thyroiditis. Possible medications include
Your doctor may also prescribe beta-blockers if hyperthyroidism is present in
the early stages. These medications lower blood pressure and relieve certain
symptoms, including anxiety and an irregular heartbeat.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism is
important at the beginning of the disease. However, it will not be helpful once
your condition progresses into the second phase. During the later stages of the
disease, you’ll develop hypothyroidism. You’ll probably need to take hormones
to replace the ones that your body isn’t producing.
Treatment for subacute thyroiditis is
usually temporary. Your doctor will eventually wean you off any medications
that have been prescribed to treat the condition.
What Is the Outlook for People with Subacute
The symptoms of subacute thyroiditis
usually go away within 12 to 18 months. In some cases, however, hypothyroidism
may end up being permanent. The American Thyroid Association estimates that
approximately 5 percent
of people with subacute thyroiditis develop permanent hypothyroidism.
Call your doctor if you suspect you
have subacute thyroiditis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent
complications from occurring.