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De Quervain's (subacute) thyroiditis: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

  • Posted on- Aug 28, 2015
  • 372 Views

Thyroiditis refers to an inflammation of the thyroid gland. The gland is located in the front of your neck and controls your metabolism by releasing a series of hormones.

Most types of thyroiditis do not cause pain in the thyroid gland. Nonetheless, they usually lead to either overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Both of these conditions cause symptoms such as weight changes, anxiety, and fatigue.

Subacute thyroiditis (De Quervain's thyroiditis) involves swelling (inflammation) of the thyroid gland that normally follows an upper respiratory infection. It leads to pain and discomfort in the thyroid gland. Individuals with this condition also suffer from overactive thyroid and later develop symptoms of underactive thyroid.

Symptoms of Subacute Thyroiditis

Unlike other forms of thyroid inflammation, subacute thyroiditis causes pain in your thyroid gland. In some cases, this pain may extend to the other parts of your neck, ears, or jaw. Your thyroid may be soft and inflamed to the touch. In rare cases, painful enlargement of the thyroid gland may last for weeks or months.

Some of the other symptoms of subacute thyroiditis include:
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Weight changes, difficulty regulating body temperature and other metabolism issues

Initially you will develop hyperthyroidism symptoms of which include:

As the disease advances, hyperthyroidism paves way for hypothyroidism, symptoms of which include:

Causes of Subacute Thyroiditis

Subacute thyroiditis is an uncommon condition. It is caused by a viral infection. This health condition occurs after a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract such as common cold, influenza and mumps.

Subacute thyroiditis is common in middle-aged women with recent (last month or so) symptoms of a viral respiratory tract infection.

Diagnosis of Subacute Thyroiditis

Your endocrinologist will diagnose this condition by taking blood samples. The result of these blood tests will depend on the disease’s stage. In the initial stages, your thyroid hormone will be high, while your thyroid stimulating hormone levels will be low.

The doctor will also take into account your recent medical history. He/She will be more likely to check for this condition if you have recently had an infection.

Treatment for Subacute Thyroiditis

Your endocrinologist’s prime objective will be to reduce the pain and control inflammation by giving medications like steroids, aspirin, and ibuprofen.

If your doctor detects hyperthyroidism in the early stages, he may want to treat this condition using beta-blocker medications. It will help lower blood pressure and minimize symptoms such as irregular heartbeat and nervousness. However, the treatment for hyperthyroidism will be temporary.

The disease usually occurs in two stages and later on you will have hypothyroidism. For that you’ll need hormones to replace those that your body is not producing.

In majority of cases, signs and symptoms resolve within a year and a half on their own. However, hypothyroidism may end up being permanent but in rarity.