Understanding Silent Thyroiditis

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The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. This gland secretes thyroid hormones that control metabolism. Silent thyroiditis is one of the rarer disorders that can affect this gland. It was recognized only in the 1970s prior to which it was treated a Grave’s disease. This type of thyroid disorder can be described as a combination of De Quervain’s thyroiditis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Understanding Silent Thyroiditis

Causes 

The exact cause of this disorder is unclear. It is considered to be related to attacks by the immune system on the thyroid gland. The condition can also be triggered by a reaction to certain types of medication such as chemotherapy. For this reason, many health providers screen for thyroid diseases before prescribing medication that is known to trigger this condition.

Risk Factors

Women have a higher risk of contracting silent thyroiditis as compared to men. Having a baby also increases a woman’s risk of this condition. Many of the cases diagnosed with silent thyroiditis have been amongst women following pregnancy. Having a family history of thyroid disorders can also increase a person’s risk of silent thyroiditis.

Symptoms

Early symptoms of this condition result from an overactive thyroid gland or hyperthyroidism. These symptoms can persist for up to 3 months. They are usually very mild and hence, often ignored.

Some of the common symptoms in this phase include:

  1. Fatigue and weakness
  2. Muscle cramps
  3. Frequent bowel movements
  4. Intolerance to heat
  5. Increased appetite
  6. Increased sweating and palpitations
  7. Irregular menstrual periods
  8. Mood changes
  9. Nervousness and restlessness
  10. Unexplained weight loss

As the disease progresses, the symptoms will change to those exhibited by hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland. These symptoms are more pronounced than the earlier symptoms and will last till the disease is cured. 

Some of the common symptoms in this phase include:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Constipation
  3. Unexpected weight gain
  4. Depression
  5. Low stamina
  6. Dry skin
  7. Inability to concentrate and focus on tasks for a long period of time

Also Read 7 Common Myths About Thyroid Disease

Diagnosis

Doctors will take a thorough medical history and conduct a physical examination to diagnose this condition. During the physical examination, they will check for the following:

  1. Shaking hands or tremors
  2. Rapid heart rate
  3. An enlarged thyroid gland that is painful to touch

An ultrasound of the thyroid gland may also be required. In addition to this, certain tests may be required to check thyroid hormone levels. These include:

  1. Radioactive iodine uptake
  2. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  3. Thyroid hormones T3 and T4
  4. C-reactive protein
  5. TSH

Treatment

Treatment of silent thyroiditis depends on the symptoms being showcased. In many cases where the symptoms are mild and resemble Grave’s disease, the condition requires no treatment. 80% of all patients diagnosed with silent thyroiditis recover completely within 3 months without any medication. 

In other cases, medication in the form of beta-blockers may be prescribed. This helps relieve excessive sweating and rapid heart rate. 

Some patients may develop a permanent hypothyroid condition and need to take thyroid hormone supplements. Anti-thyroid medication, radioactive iodine, and surgery are never needed as treatment. Regular check-ups are recommended post-treatment.

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