What is Thyroiditis?

Mary McMahon

Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland, a gland in the neck that is a critical part of the endocrine system. When the thyroid becomes inflamed, it is unable to perform its normal functions, typically producing less hormones than it normally would, causing a variety of health problems. There are a number of different types and causes of inflammation, some of which require treatment and some that will resolve on their own. Medical attention is important to uncover the cause of the condition, and to confirm that there are no lumps or other irregularities present in the gland.

Fever and fatigue can be indicators of thyroiditis.
Fever and fatigue can be indicators of thyroiditis.

Any time an “-itis” is involved, it's a clue that the condition is characterized by inflammation, often caused by infection. There are four main types of thyroid inflammation: Hashimoto's, subacute, acute, and silent thyroiditis. Each requires a different treatment approach, which is why it's important that a person consult a medical professional when symptoms like a painfully swollen neck, fatigue, muscle weakness, pale skin, and fever appear, so that the condition and cause can be diagnosed.

When the thyroid becomes inflamed, it produces less hormones than it should.
When the thyroid becomes inflamed, it produces less hormones than it should.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation when the immune system starts attacking the thyroid gland. It requires treatment with supplemental thyroid medication to make up for the hormones the body is not producing. Usually, the symptoms clear up after the patient starts using the medication, although the drugs need to be taken for life to prevent a recurrence of symptoms.

Problems with the thyroid gland may cause high blood pressure.
Problems with the thyroid gland may cause high blood pressure.

Subacute thyroiditis, also known as De Quervain's or viral thyroiditis, is caused by an infection. Viral infections in the area of the thyroid, such as upper respiratory infections, can lead to this condition. Usually, the patient is encouraged to rest and take aspirin to reduce the inflammation and the swelling until the pain in the neck goes down after a few weeks. Acute thyroiditis, on the other hand, is caused by a bacterial infection of the thyroid itself, leading to rapid swelling, pain, and heat around the thyroid gland. It requires immediate surgical intervention to drain the thyroid, and medications may need to be taken if the gland was damaged.

The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating metabolism.
The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating metabolism.

Silent thyroiditis is a very rare form of inflammation that manifests in some women after pregnancy and giving birth. The thyroid swells slightly and feels hard to the touch. The condition typically develops within a year of the birth, but it usually clears up within a few months. This type is also called postpartum thyroiditis.

A painfully swollen neck could be a symptom of thyroiditis.
A painfully swollen neck could be a symptom of thyroiditis.

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Discussion Comments


I was diagnosed with thyroiditis back in may. I was in such severe pain that the doc had to put me on steroids for six weeks. The pain went away in the middle of july. But the last few days I have been having same symptoms such as pain, fever etc.


When I was in fourth grade, I became ill with acute thyroiditis. My thyroid gland had a bacterial infection that made pus collect. This pus formed an abscess inside my thyroid gland.

My doctor told my mom that this type of thyroiditis is rare these days, because bacterial infections are normally treated with antibiotics that stop them before they spread to the thyroid gland. I guess I had waited too long to complain about my symptoms, because the bacteria had made it there.

He gave me antibiotics, but I also had to have surgery. He drained the pus. After my round of antibiotics, I fully recovered.


After giving birth to my niece, my aunt developed silent thyroiditis. She alternated between hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism with this condition.

She felt really worn out. She hated being cold or hot, and her hunger increased. She sweated excessively, her hands shook, and she felt nervous and weak. She started having heart palpitations, so she went to a physician.

Her doctor told her that the acute phase of silent thyroiditis only lasts 3 months, though the condition remains for a year. She had an enlarged thyroid gland and a rapid heart rate. He put her on beta-blockers to control her heart rate and sweating, and she just had to learn to deal with the other symptoms for a year.


Subacute thyroiditis affected my brother. He thought he just had a bad cold, but when the fever set in, he headed to the doctor.

He had been experiencing pain, swelling, and tenderness around the gland. It had spread to his ears and throat. He started to feel very tired and had trouble swallowing.

His doctor told him that what he had was subacute thyroiditis and that there was no cure. However, it goes away on its own in a few weeks or months. He told my brother to simply take ibuprofen for pain and inflammation. To give him a jump start on getting over the flare-up, he gave him a steroid shot and a dose pack.


My sister developed Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and has to be on medication for as long as she lives. When she first started noticing her symptoms, she thought they were just age-related. She was about to hit 40, and she felt fatigued and sluggish all the time. She could not tolerate cold temperatures, her face became puffy, and her voice became hoarse. She gained ten pounds for no good reason, and she experienced joint stiffness.

She casually mentioned how hard it was getting older to her doctor. Once she described how she felt, the doctor decided to test for thyroiditis. She checked her blood and found that my sister did indeed have Hashimoto’s disease. She is now taking hormone replacement drugs.

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