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Silent Thyroiditis

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Silent thyroiditis is swelling of the thyroid gland in a person who fluctuates between having hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).

Unlike many other thyroid dysfunctions, it is normally temporary and can resolve itself in up to a year. Some people may develop permanent hypothyroidism as a result.

Silent thyroiditis is also called painless thyroiditis, subacute lymphocytic thyroiditis and lymphocytic thyroiditis.

Symptoms are:

• Fatigue
• Irritability
• Nervousness
• Palpitations
• Heat intolerance
• In women, irregular menstrual periods
• Increased bowel movements
• Weight loss
• Sweating
• Weakness
• Muscle cramping

You may not have all the symptoms listed.


The doctor will start by doing a physical examination. He will feel your neck and look for signs of an enlarged thyroid gland. He will listen to your heart.

People with silent thyroiditis often have a rapid heart rate. You might also have shaking hands. All of these signs are indicative of the condition.

He will take blood to check your levels of thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). You need these hormones to control your metabolism (how your body breaks down energy from food and distributes it). Blood results may show increased levels of these hormones.

A radioactive iodine uptake test may be done to test thyroid function. The thyroid gland uses iodine to make its hormones, so if you swallow radioactive iodine the doctor can see how much iodine your thyroid gland has taken up. This may be less than the normal amount.

If a biopsy is done, it may show an increased amount of white blood cells.


As the condition is usually mild and temporary, treatment may not be necessary. However, treatment can be given to ease your symptoms if you find them troublesome. For instance, beta blockers could be given to ease heart palpitations.

It is also important to visit your doctor for checkups, as silent thyroiditis may occasionally develop into hypothyroidism. An under-active thyroid requires hormone replacement treatment.


Silent Thyroiditis, Medline Plus. Web. 31 January 2012. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000388.htm

Silent thyroiditis – Overview, University of Maryland Medical Center. Web. 31 January 2012. http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/000388.htm

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting.

Reviewed January 31, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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