Learning About Subacute Thyroiditis

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Front view of the thyroid gland

What is subacute thyroiditis?

Subacute thyroiditis is a problem with the thyroid gland. This gland is in the front of your neck. It makes hormones that help control many body functions. These include your weight, digestion, temperature, and appetite.

If the thyroid gland gets inflamed, you may have subacute thyroiditis. It can cause thyroid pain and short-term problems with how the thyroid works.

What causes it?

Doctors don't know for sure what causes subacute thyroiditis. But it often starts after a cold or an infection like a cold. So doctors think it may be related to an infection with a virus.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of subacute thyroiditis is pain and soreness in the front of the neck. You may also have a sore throat or pain in other areas close to the gland, such as the jaw or chest. Many people also feel achy and tired.

When the condition first starts, you may have symptoms of too much thyroid hormone being released too quickly. These include feeling anxious or having a fast heartbeat. These symptoms usually go away after a few weeks. But later you may have a few months of an underactive thyroid. During this time, you may feel tired and gain weight.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms. The doctor also will examine you and feel your thyroid gland to see if you have any pain or tenderness. Blood tests can help show if there is inflammation. Tests also can show if your thyroid hormone levels are too high or if your thyroid gland is underactive.

How is it treated?

Subacute thyroiditis usually gets better on its own over a few months. Medicines like ibuprofen or naproxen can help with pain and inflammation. Sometimes the doctor will prescribe a steroid medicine such as prednisone.

If you have too much thyroid hormone in your blood, you may need medicines to help control the gland or your symptoms. You also may have regular blood tests to make sure that your thyroid function goes back to normal.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.