Thyroiditis is the inflammation of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located on the front of the neck below the laryngeal prominence, and makes hormones that control metabolism.
Thyroiditis is generally caused by an attack on the thyroid, resulting in inflammation and damage to the thyroid cells. This disease is often considered a malfunction of the immune system. Antibodies that attack the thyroid are what causes most types of thyroiditis. It can also be caused by an infection, like a virus or bacteria, which works in the same way as antibodies to cause inflammation in the glands. Certain people make thyroid antibodies, and thyroiditis can be considered an autoimmune disease, because the body acts as if the thyroid gland is foreign tissue. Some drugs, such as interferon and amiodarone, can also cause thyroiditis because they have a tendency to damage thyroid cells.
The most common and helpful way to diagnose thyroiditis is first for a physician to palpate the thyroid gland during a physical examination. Laboratory tests allow doctors to evaluate the patient for elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rates, elevated thyroglobulin levels, and depressed radioactive iodine intake (Mather, 2007). Blood tests also help to determine the kind of thyroiditis and to see how much thyroid stimulating hormone the pituitary gland is producing and what antibodies are present in the body. In some cases a biopsy may be needed to find out what is attacking the thyroid.
Treatments for this disease depend on the type of thyroiditis that is diagnosed. For the most common type, which is known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the treatment is to immediately start hormone replacement. This prevents or corrects the hypothyroidism, and it also generally keeps the gland from getting bigger. Often, victims of this disease only need bed rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications; however, some need steroids to reduce inflammation and to control palpitations. Depending on the type of thyroiditis, doctors may prescribe beta blockers to lower the heart rate and reduce tremors