What Is Silent Thyroiditis? | Endocrinology

Overview of silent thyroiditis

Silent thyroiditis is an immune reaction of the thyroid gland. The disorder can cause hyperthyroidism, followed by hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland is located in the neck, just above where your collarbones meet in the middle.

Alternative names

  • Lymphocytic thyroiditis
  • Subacute lymphocytic thyroiditis
  • Painless thyroiditis
  • Postpartum thyroiditis
  • Thyroiditis – silent
  • Hyperthyroidism – silent thyroiditis

Causes of silent thyroiditis

The cause of the disease is unknown. But it is related to an attack on the thyroid by the immune system. The disease affects women more often than men.

The disease can occur in women who have just had a baby. It can also be caused by drugs such as interferon and amiodarone, and some types of chemotherapy, which affect the immune system.

Signs and symptoms of silent thyroiditis

The condition begins in the postpartum period, usually within 12 to 16 weeks. Silent lymphocytic thyroiditis is characterized by a variable degree of painless thyroid enlargement with a hyperthyroid phase of several weeks, often followed by transient hypothyroidism due to depleted thyroid hormone stores but usually eventual recovery to the euthyroid state (as noted for painful subacute thyroiditis). The hyperthyroid phase is self-limited and may be brief or overlooked. Many women with this disorder are diagnosed when they become hypothyroid, which occasionally is permanent.

Diagnosis of silent thyroiditis

Subacute lymphocytic thyroiditis can only be correctly diagnosed by a radioactive iodine absorption test (RAIU). During the hyperthyroid and hypothyroid phases, radioactive iodine uptake decreases. This situation is in stark contrast to the elevated iodine uptake found in patients with Graves’ disease.

Silent thyroiditis risk factors

Women have a higher risk of getting silent thyroiditis compared to men. Having a baby also increases a woman’s risk for this condition. Many of the cases diagnosed with silent thyroiditis have occurred in women after pregnancy. Having a family history of thyroid disorders can also increase a person’s risk for silent thyroiditis.

Treatment of silent thyroiditis

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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