Thyroiditis refers to swelling of your thyroid gland. In some cases, it’s a short-term condition caused by a virus. This type is likely to get better on its own, though it can result in the gland producing too little thyroid hormone. In other cases, thyroiditis can be chronic. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common type of chronic thyroiditis. It occurs when your own body attacks your thyroid gland.
No matter the cause of your condition, our team at UW Health can help. We offer the most up-to-date treatments, including surgery. Our vast experience gives us knowledge and skill that few endocrine surgeons have. When you come to us, you get the best care available.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Know what to look for
If you have symptoms of thyroiditis, it’s important to see a doctor. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can get treatment and start feeling better. We see patients referred by a physician and people who decide to come to us on their own.
There are several types of thyroiditis. As a result, symptoms can vary. If you have Hashimoto’s disease, for instance, you may have few or no symptoms at first. Over time, symptoms of hypothyroidism — or underactive thyroid — can develop. Hypothyroidism symptoms are common with other types of thyroiditis as well. They include:
Heavy or irregular periods
Joint and muscle pain
Hashimoto’s disease may also cause your thyroid gland to enlarge. An enlarged thyroid is known as a goiter. It can lead to pressure or fullness in your throat.
With other types of thyroiditis, symptoms of hyperthyroidism — or overactive thyroid — may occur first. An overactive thyroid gland can cause:
Anxiety or irritability
Blood tests and a physical exam help us make a diagnosis. Sometimes we do an ultrasound as well. This test uses sound waves to create pictures of your thyroid gland. If necessary, your doctor might suggest a biopsy. This test involves removing thyroid tissue and examining it in a lab.
Meet our team
You deserve a top-rated team — we’ve got it
Endocrine surgeons treat thyroiditis. At UW Health, we have some of the best endocrine surgeons in the country. They are nationally known and treat patients from across the country. If you need thyroiditis care, it can be comforting to know there’s no better place to turn than UW Health.
Treatments and research
Your symptoms guide your treatment
Treatment for thyroiditis depends on your condition and symptoms.
There are several types of medicine that doctors might prescribe. Pain medication, along with rest, can relieve discomfort caused by a viral infection. Certain medicines can also lower high thyroid levels or treat symptoms. Because hyperthyroidism is often temporary, our first approach is often keeping an eye on it before prescribing a specific treatment.
Levothyroxine is a common medication prescribed to people with low thyroid levels. It replaces your natural thyroid hormone with a synthetic version. Because everyone and their thyroid are unique, finding the right dose can take time.
Sometimes surgery to remove your thyroid gland is part of thyroiditis treatment. We consider surgery if you have:
Changing levels of thyroid hormones
Nodules, or lumps, within your thyroid gland
Persistent symptoms of Hashimoto's disease despite having normal thyroid hormone levels
Severe symptoms, including breathing problems or feelings of choking that can occur if an enlarged thyroid compresses your neck
At UW Health, we specialize in procedures that minimize scarring. These minimally invasive procedures use tiny incisions that we can often hide in the creases of your neck. Usually you don’t have to spend the night in the hospital. In most cases, the procedures also result in less discomfort and a quicker recovery than open surgery. If we remove your thyroid gland, medication will provide the thyroid hormone you need.
Patient and support resources
These resources can help you learn about your thyroid gland and treatments for thyroiditis.
How to find us
Our surgeons are nearby and ready to help.