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 Hashimoto's disease, subacute granulomatous thyroiditis, postpartum thyroiditis, subacute lymphocytic thyroiditis and drug induced thyroiditis. Most forms of thyroiditis result in three phases: overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), and return to normal. When the thyroid is inflamed, it often releases an excess of thyroid hormone, resulting in hyperthyroidism. Alternatively, when the supply of thyroid hormone is depleted, the body has too little, and hypothyroidism results. Young to middle aged women are at greatest risk, however, some forms of thyroiditis occur in both men and women of all ages. With some forms, hypothyroidism may develop years later, even if the thyroiditis has resolved.
Depending on the type of thyroiditis, the thyroid gland can have one of the following characteristics:
You may also have one or more of the following symptoms:
Immune disorders, viruses, and fever disorders can cause thyroiditis. Sometimes thyroiditis develops if you have Graves' disease (an autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism). Certain drugs, such as amiodarone, interferon-alpha, inter leukin-2, or lithium can also cause thyroiditis. Pregnant women who test positive for the thyroid antibody during their first trimester have a 30 - 50% chance of developing thyroiditis during the postpartum period. Excessive iodine intake may also contribute to thyroid disorders. In some cases or thyroiditis, there is no identifiable cause.
Your health care provider will feel your neck to see if the thyroid gland is enlarged or inflamed and may request an ultrasound of your thyroid gland. Your provider may also order blood tests to check the levels of thyroid hormones and antibodies. You may receive medication to help alleviate your symptoms.
Natural medicine practitioners often take a different view of laboratory analysis of thyroid function. Many naturally oriented doctors pay particular attention to levels of T3 hormone, the active form of thyroid hormone that is converted in the body from T4, an inactive thyroid hormone. Conventional lab tests usually monitor T4 and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) without examining levels of T3. People with hypothyroidism may be treated with T4 to bring their levels of T4 to normal limits. Meanwhile, if you are unable to convert T4 to T3, your tests may be normal but you may still experience the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Talk to your doctor about including T3 lab tests in the treatment of hypothyroidism.
Thyroiditis generally involves three phases: overactive phase, underactive phase, and return to normal. Treatment is individualized to type and phase.
Depending on the particular type of thyroiditis, a physician may prescribe one or more of the following treatments:
In rare cases, partial thyroid removal may relieve pressure.
Alternative therapies can help when used along with the medications your health care provider prescribes, but do not replace conventional medications. Make sure your doctor knows about any alternative therapies you are using or considering using. Some supplements can interfere with conventional medications.
Your health care provider may also recommend specific nutritional supplements for a hyperthyroid or hypothyroid condition.
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to diagnose your problem 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 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Talk to your health care provider 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 perform 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 maternal thyroid hormone deficiency can lead to neurodevelopment complications in the fetus. Careful monitoring is necessary.
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