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Thyroiditis is the inflammation, or swelling, of the thyroid gland. It can lead to over- (hyperthyroidism) or under- (hypothyroidism) production of thyroid hormone, which controls the body’s metabolism.

There are three phases of thyroiditis:

  1. Thyrotoxic phase – Thyrotoxicosis means that the thyroid is inflamed and releases too many hormones
  2. Hypothyroid phase – Following the excessive release of thyroid hormones, the thyroid will not have enough thyroid hormones to release. This leads to a lack of thyroid hormones called hypothyroidism
  3. Euthyroid phase – During the third phase, thyroid hormone levels are normal. This phase may come temporarily after the thyrotoxic phase before going to the hypothyroid phase, or it may come at the end after the thyroid gland has recovered from the inflammation and is able to maintain a normal hormone level

There are several types of thyroiditis, including:

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Silent thyroiditis or painless thyroiditis
  • Post-partum thyroiditis
  • Radiation-induced thyroiditis
  • Subacute thyroiditis
  • Acute thyroiditis
  • Drug-induced thyroiditis

Risk Factors

Risk factors of thyroiditis depend on the type of thyroiditis and the corresponding phase.

Hyperthyroid phase

  • Gender – women are at increased risk
  • Family or personal history
  • Past trauma to thyroid gland
  • Current or recent pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Recent use of iodine contrast

Hypothyroid phase

  • Age and gender – women over 60 at increased risk
  • Pre-existing condition such as diabetes or celiac disease
  • Pituitary gland disorder
  • Pregnancy

Symptoms

Like risk factors, symptoms of thyroiditis depend on the type of thyroiditis and the corresponding phase.

Hyperthyroid phase: Usually short (1-3 months). If cells are damaged quickly and there is a leak of excess thyroid hormone, you might show symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as:

  • Being worried
  • Feeling irritable
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Increased sweating and heat intolerance
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Increased appetite
  • Tremors

Hypothyroid phase (more common): Can be long-lasting and may become permanent. If cells are damaged and thyroid hormone levels fall, you might show symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Difficulty performing physical exercise
  • Decreased mental ability to concentrate and focus

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