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Silent thyroiditis

Silent thyroiditis is swelling (inflammation) of the thyroid gland. The disorder can cause hyperthyroidism, followed by hypothyroidism.

Causes

The cause of this type of thyroiditis is unknown, but it is related to an immune attack against the thyroid. The disease affects women more often than men.

The disease can occur in women who have just had a baby. It can also be caused by medicines such as interferon and amiodarone.

Symptoms

The earliest symptoms result from an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). These symptoms may last for up to 3 months. Later symptoms may be of an underactive thyroid (including fatigue and cold intolerance) until the thyroid recovers. Some people only notice the hypothyroid symptoms and do not have symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms are usually mild and may include:

Exams and Tests

A physical examination may show:

  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shaking hands

Tests that may be done include:

Treatment

Treatment is based on symptoms. Medicines called beta-blockers may be used to relieve rapid heart rate and excessive sweating.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Silent thyroiditis often goes away on its own within 1 year. The acute phase ends within 3 months.

Some people develop hypothyroidism over time. They need to be treated for a while with levothyroxine, a medicine that replaces thyroid hormone. Regular follow-ups with a doctor are recommended.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of this condition.

Alternative Names

Lymphocytic thyroiditis; Subacute lymphocytic thyroiditis; Painless thyroiditis; Postpartum thyroiditis; Thyroiditis - silent

References

Brent GA, Davies TF. Hypothyroidism and thyroiditis. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, et al. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 13.

Update Date: 5/10/2014

Updated by: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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