Understanding Subacute Thyroiditis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment


Thyroid health is crucial for the overall well-being of the body, and any disruption can significantly impact daily life. One such disruption is subacute thyroiditis, a condition that often goes under the radar but can cause considerable discomfort and complications if not managed properly. In this blog, we will delve into one of the thyroid conditions called subacute thyroiditis, exploring its symptoms, causes, and available treatments.

What is Subacute Thyroiditis?

Subacute thyroiditis, also known as de Quervain’s thyroiditis or subacute granulomatous thyroiditis, is an inflammatory condition affecting the thyroid gland. It is characterized by a painful and swollen thyroid, often accompanied by symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) during different phases of the illness.

Phases of Subacute Thyroiditis

a. Hyperthyroid Phase


Inflammation and Hormone Release: Subacute thyroiditis often starts with an inflammatory response in the thyroid gland, typically triggered by a viral infection or other immune responses. This inflammation leads to the destruction of thyroid follicular cells, causing the release of preformed thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) into the bloodstream.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroid

These symptoms may include

  • Neck pain and tenderness: Often localized to the thyroid gland and may radiate to the jaw or ears.
  • Fever: Mild to moderate fever may accompany the inflammation.
  • Fatigue: General feelings of tiredness and weakness.
  • Palpitations: Increased heart rate or irregular heartbeats.
  • Weight loss: Unintentional weight loss despite normal or increased appetite.
  • Nervousness and irritability: Feeling anxious or easily agitated.

b. Hypothyroid Phase


Reduction of Hormone: As the thyroid gland becomes depleted of hormones, the condition may transition into a hypothyroid phase, where there is insufficient production of thyroid hormones.

Symptoms of Hypothyroid

Symptoms in this phase may include

  • Fatigue: Persistent tiredness and lethargy.
  • Weight gain: Unexpected weight gain without any changes in diet or exercise.
  • Intolerance to cold: Heightened sensitivity to cold temperatures.
  • Depression: Feelings of sadness or depression.
  • Dry skin and hair: Noticeably drier skin and hair.
  • Muscle aches and weakness: General muscle discomfort and weakness.

Recovery Phase

Over time, the inflammation subsides, and the thyroid gland begins to function normally again. Symptoms gradually diminish, and most patients return to their usual state of health. However, in some cases, the hypothyroid phase may persist, requiring long-term management.

Causes of Subacute Thyroiditis

The exact cause of subacute thyroiditis is not well understood, but it is believed to be associated with a viral infection or a post-viral inflammatory response. The condition is more common in women than men and typically occurs in middle-aged adults. 

Diagnosis of Subacute Thyroiditis

Diagnosis of subacute thyroiditis involves a combination of clinical evaluation, laboratory tests, and imaging studies. Key diagnostic steps include:

  • Medical history and physical examination: The doctor will assess symptoms, neck tenderness, and overall health.
  • Thyroid function tests: Blood tests to assess thyroid hormone levels (T3 and T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
  • Inflammatory markers: Blood tests for markers like erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP) to detect inflammation.
  • Radioactive iodine uptake test: Low uptake of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland can indicate subacute thyroiditis.
  • Ultrasound: Imaging to evaluate the size and texture of the thyroid gland.

Consulting an endocrinologist is essential for a precise diagnosis and tailored treatment plan. In some cases, a full body checkup at home might be a convenient option, especially for those with mobility issues or severe discomfort.

Treatment of Subacute Thyroiditis

Treatment for subacute thyroiditis focuses on relieving symptoms and managing thyroid hormone levels. Common approaches include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Corticosteroids: For more severe cases, corticosteroids may be prescribed to quickly reduce inflammation.
  • Beta-blockers: Medications to manage symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as palpitations and tremors.
  • Thyroid hormone replacement: In the hypothyroid phase, synthetic thyroid hormones may be prescribed to normalize hormone levels.
  • Monitoring: Regular follow-ups to monitor thyroid function and adjust treatment as necessary.

Most patients recover fully with appropriate treatment, though some may experience a recurrence or prolonged hypothyroid phase requiring long-term hormone replacement therapy.


Subacute thyroiditis is a painful and disruptive condition, but with proper diagnosis and treatment, most patients may expect a full recovery. Awareness of the symptoms and understanding the phases of the illness can aid in early detection and effective management. If you experience persistent neck pain, fever, or symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, it is essential to seek medical advice for appropriate evaluation and care.

By staying informed and proactive about thyroid disorders, you can navigate the challenges of subacute thyroiditis and maintain overall well-being.

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Medical Advice: The information provided in this blog post is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional for personalized guidance regarding your specific medical condition.

Accuracy of Information: While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, the field of medicine and viral fevers is constantly evolving. The content in this blog post may not reflect the most current research or medical guidelines. Therefore, it is advisable to cross-check any information provided with reliable sources or consult a healthcare professional.

Individual Variations: The symptoms, causes, treatment options, and preventive measures discussed in this blog post are general in nature and may not apply to everyone. It is important to remember that each individual’s situation is unique, and personalized medical advice should be sought when making healthcare decisions.

External Links: This blog post may contain links to external websites or resources for additional information. However, we do not endorse or have control over the content of these third-party websites. Accessing these links is done at your own risk, and we are not responsible for any consequences or damages that may arise from visiting these external sources.

Results May Vary: The effectiveness of treatment options or preventive measures mentioned in this blog post may vary from person to person. What works for one individual may not work the same way for another. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice tailored to your specific needs.

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