Thyroiditis: Hashimoto’s disease and other types

Thyroid inflammation, also called thyroiditis, is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. The consequences of inflammation of the thyroid gland can be temporary or permanent. There are several forms of thyroiditis. The three most common types: Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune disease), viral thyroiditis, and postpartum thyroiditis. What are the causes, the symptoms? How is thyroiditis treated and what is the outlook?

Article content

  • Thyroid
  • Thyroid inflammation (thyroiditis)
  • Types of thyroiditis
  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Viral thyroiditis
  • Postpartum thyroiditis
  • Diagnosis of thyroiditis
  • Treatment of thyroiditis

Thyroid

The thyroid gland, or thyroid gland, is a gland that produces hormones and is located at the bottom of the neck. The thyroid gland is made up of two lobes, which are located next to the trachea. They are connected by a thin middle piece, which runs in front of the trachea. During swallowing, the thyroid gland moves up and down. The thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodotyronine promote the metabolism of all cells in the body. To make these hormones, the thyroid gland absorbs iodine from the blood (which comes from food). There is a third thyroid hormone: calcitonin. This lowers the concentration of calcium in the blood. Thyroid hormones always refer to the first two hormones. The production of thyroid hormones is regulated by TSH, the thyroid-stimulating hormone, made in the pituitary gland.

Thyroid inflammation (thyroiditis)

It is an inflammation of the thyroid gland with temporary or permanent effects. It is more common in adults and almost never in children. Inflammation can hinder the functioning of the thyroid gland. It can lead to too little effectiveness (hypothyroidism) or too much effectiveness (hyperthyroidism). Underproduction or excessive production of thyroid hormones is usually temporary, but can also be permanent.

Types of thyroiditis

There are different forms depending on the origin.
The three most common types :

  • Hashimoto’s disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis);
  • Viral thyroiditis;
  • Postpartum thyroiditis.

Hashimoto’s disease

This is the most common type. It is a disorder of the autoimmune system: the body produces antibodies that damage the thyroid gland. There is often too little production (hypthyroidism) and sometimes you see a swollen neck, the latter being due to a swollen thyroid gland (goiter). Hashimoto’s disease is much more common in women than in men. Sometimes the condition runs in families and a link can be made between Hashimoto’s disease and other autoimmune disorders, such as vitiligo and megaloblastic anemia.

Viral thyroiditis

Sometimes viral thyroiditis is mistaken for an inflammation of the throat. This is because both involve a painful feeling while swallowing. With viral thyroiditis you may also suffer from painful jaws or ears. Symptoms may also include fever and weight loss. The condition can lead to excessive production and then too little production of thyroid hormones.

Postpartum thyroiditis

Postpartum thyroiditis is probably caused by changes that occur in the immune system during pregnancy. Postpartum thyroiditis develops within a few months to one year after giving birth in about one in eight women. Symptoms are usually absent, but may include: first hypothyroidism, then hyperthyroidism. Usually, postpartum thyroiditis goes away after a few months. However, you may experience this again during a subsequent pregnancy.

Diagnosis of thyroiditis

A doctor can order blood tests: determine the amount of thyroid hormones, look for antibodies that affect the thyroid gland. Furthermore, a radionuclide scan can be made to assess the extent of the activity of the thyroid gland.

Treatment of thyroiditis

  • With Hashimoto’s disease you usually have to take thyroid hormone (synthetic) for the rest of your life.
  • If there is severe viral thyroiditis, corticosteroids or aspirin may be prescribed to combat the inflammation.
  • Postpartum thyroiditis does not require treatment, this type of thyroiditis is usually short-lived.