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Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. It may be painful and tender when caused by an infection or trauma, or painless when caused by an autoimmune condition or medications.
There are several types of thyroiditis. The most common forms are:
Most forms of thyroiditis result in 3 phases: overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), and a return to normal.
When the thyroid is inflamed, it often releases too much thyroid hormone, causing hyperthyroidism. Then, when there is no more thyroid hormone to release, the body doesn't have enough, causing hypothyroidism.
Young to middle aged women are at the greatest risk. However, some forms of thyroiditis happen in both men and women of all ages. Sometimes, you may develop hypothyroidism years later, even if the thyroiditis was treated.
Signs and Symptoms
Depending on the type of thyroiditis, the thyroid gland can be:
You may also have one or more of the following symptoms:
In some cases, especially postpartum thyroiditis, there may be no symptoms.
What Causes It?
Possible causes of thyroiditis include:
Sometimes thyroiditis develops if you have Graves' disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism.
Pregnant women who test positive for the thyroid antibody during their first trimester have a 30 to 50% chance of developing thyroiditis after delivery. Too much iodine may also contribute to thyroid disorders.
In some cases of thyroiditis, no cause can be found.
What to Expect at Your Doctor's Office
Your doctor will feel your neck to see if the thyroid gland is enlarged or inflamed, and may order an ultrasound of your thyroid gland. Your doctor may also order blood tests to check the levels of thyroid hormones and antibodies in your system. You may get medication to help relieve your symptoms.
Natural medicine practitioners often take a different view of laboratory results of thyroid function. Many naturally-oriented doctors pay particular attention to levels of T3 hormone. That is the active form of thyroid hormone that your body makes from T4, an inactive thyroid hormone. Conventional lab tests usually measure T4 and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) without examining levels of T3. If you have hypothyroidism, your doctor may treat it with T4 to bring your levels of T4 to normal limits. If your body can't convert T4 to T3, your tests may be normal, but you may still have symptoms of hypothyroidism. Talk to your doctor about including T3 lab tests in the treatment of hypothyroidism.
Thyroiditis generally involves 3 phases: overactive phase, underactive phase, and return to normal. Treatment depends on the type of thyroiditis and the phase.
Depending on the particular type of thyroiditis, a doctor may prescribe one or more of the following treatments:
Surgical and Other Procedures
In rare cases, partial removal of the thyroid may relieve pressure.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Alternative therapies can help when used along with the medications your doctor prescribes. Do not use alternative therapies by themselves to treat thyroiditis. Make sure your doctor knows about any alternative therapies you are using or considering using. Some supplements can interfere with conventional medications.
Nutrition and Supplements
Your doctor may also recommend specific nutritional supplements for a hyperthyroid or hypothyroid condition.
Herbs are a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your doctor before starting treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Talk to your doctor before taking herbs for thyroiditis, particularly if you are also taking prescription medication.
For hyperthyroid conditions:
For hypothyroid conditions:
You should carefully monitor any treatment for lowering or raising thyroid function because thyroiditis may switch from hyperthyroidism to hypothyroidism very quickly.
Homeopathy may be useful as a supportive therapy for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Exercise helps improve thyroid function for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Acupuncture may help correct hormonal imbalances and address underlying deficiencies and excesses involved in thyroiditis.
Therapeutic massage may relieve stress and increase the sense of well being.
Your health care provider may order frequent blood tests to make sure your thyroid hormone levels fall within the normal range.
Thyroid disorders are one of the most common endocrine disorders in pregnant women. Even mild thyroid hormone deficiency can cause problems with the fetus, so your doctor will watch your thryoid levels closely.
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Review Date: 3/22/2014
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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