How Doctors Treat Thyroid Pain
Conventional treatment for a painful thyroid will depend on the cause of the pain.
Typically, thyroid pain is treated with anti-inflammatory NSAIDs like ibuprofen, or corticosteroids like prednisone. If youre found to have hypothyroidism, you may be prescribed T4 thyroid replacement therapy with levothyroxine.
If youre diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, beta blockers;may be prescribed to reduce symptoms. Anti-thyroid procedures, such as radioactive iodine treatment or even removal of your thyroid gland, may be recommended.
Radioactive iodine treatment permanently damages your thyroid gland;to prevent it from producing excess thyroid hormones. Thyroid removal is a permanent solution. Both approaches leave you hypothyroid;for life. A much better approach is to treat the underlying cause of autoimmunity to try to preserve your thyroid gland;and its function.
Functional medicine;treatment for a thyroid condition;attempts to address the root causes of your thyroid symptoms. This may include diet and lifestyle changes, as well as treatment to improve your gut health. Often, drastic measures like thyroid removal can be avoided with this approach.
Enlarged Lymph Nodes In The Neck
Enlarged lymph nodes occur when the node becomes larger as it fills with inflammatory cells. This often is a result of an infection but can occur without a known cause.
Top Symptoms: neck bump, movable neck lump
Symptoms that always occur with enlarged lymph nodes in the neck: neck bump
Symptoms that never occur with enlarged lymph nodes in the neck:unintentional weight loss, fever, hard neck lump
Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit
When To See A Doctor
It is vital for people with unexplained fatigue or other signs or symptoms of hypothyroidism to see a doctor. Without treatment, an underactive thyroid can lead to serious complications, such as infertility, obesity, and heart disease.
A doctor can carry out a simple blood test to check a persons thyroid hormone levels. Treatment for hypothyroidism involves taking synthetic thyroid hormones. These medications are safe and effective once a person takes the right dose.
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Is It Menopause Or Thyroid Disorder
Thyroid disorders can cause symptoms that are mistaken for those of a woman approaching menopause. Both menstrual cycle changes and mood changes can result from the menopausal transition or from thyroid conditions. Blood tests can determine which of these conditions is responsible for your symptoms. It’s also possible to have a combination of the two causes.
What Are Symptoms Of Thyroiditis
Symptoms of inflammation of the thyroid gland include:
- Low thyroid hormone
Tests for inflammation of the thyroid gland may include:
- Thyroid function tests;
- T3 and T4 in the blood
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Conditions That Cause Thyroid Pain
There are actually many different medical conditions that may lead to thyroid pain.;
It’s important to differentiate between these conditions because not all of these conditions are treated in the same way.;
The good news is that the most common cause of thyroid pain is subacute thyroiditis which will generally go away on its own.;
If you are experiencing thyroid pain then you should be evaluated for the following medical conditions:;
#1. Subacute Thyroiditis
Any condition which results in inflammation of the thyroid gland may potentially result in pain in that same area.;
This particular condition is usually the result of an infection but it can be an infection from a virus or bacteria or fungus.;
The most common subtype of subacute thyroiditis is known as subacute granulomatous thyroiditis which is typically caused by a viral infection.;
The good news is that viral infections tend to be cleared up by the immune system over time and without any intervention .;
Other forms of thyroiditis, such as those caused by bacteria or fungus , may require more heavy duty medications such as antibiotics or antifungals.;
Subacute thyroiditis, despite it being the most common cause of neck pain, is actually not very common at all.;
This means that you can usually identify the type of thyroiditis that you have simply by whether or not pain is present in your thyroid gland.;
What Are The Symptoms Of Subacute Thyroiditis
Unlike other forms of thyroiditis, subacute thyroiditis causes pain in the thyroid gland. In some cases, this pain might also spread to other parts of your neck, ears, or jaw. Your thyroid may be swollen and tender to the touch. The American Thyroid Association estimates that the pain commonly lasts between 1 and 3 months.
Other symptoms of subacute thyroiditis include:
- heavy menstrual periods
The first stage of subacute thyroiditis usually lasts for less than three months. The second stage may last for an additional nine to 15 months.
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What The Thyroid Gland Does
To understand why some types of goiter develop, it is first important to know what the normal function of the thyroid gland is and how it is regulated.;;The thyroid gland makes and releases into blood two small chemicals, called thyroid hormones:;thyroxine ;and;triiodothyronine .;;Each of them is comprised of a pair of connected tyrosine amino acids to which four or three iodine molecules, respectively, are attached.
The iodine needed for thyroid hormone production comes from our diet in seafood, dairy products, store bought bread, and iodized salt.;;Once absorbed, iodine in blood is trapped by a special pump in thyroid cells, called the sodium-iodide symporter.;;The thyroid also has several specialized biochemical ‘fastening machines,’ called enzymes, that then carry out the steps needed to attach iodine to particular parts of a very big protein called thyroglobulin, which is made only by thyroid cells.
Some of this thyroglobulin with iodine molecules attached is stored in the gland in the form of a gooey paste called;colloid, which is normally located in the center of follicles, which are balls of thyroid cells with a hollow center.;;
How Is Thyroiditis Diagnosed
Lab tests often can diagnose thyroiditis, including what type you have. Your doctor will start with a blood test. This measures the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood. It will show if your hormone levels are too high or too low. Blood tests check your level of thyroid-stimulating hormone as well. TSH is produced in the pituitary gland and can affect your thyroid hormone levels. Blood tests also can show if you have antibodies present in your body.
Your doctor may do a radioactive iodine uptake test. This measures your thyroids ability to absorb iodine, a mineral that is needed to produce thyroid hormone.
In some cases, you may need a biopsy to determine what is attacking the thyroid.
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Thyroid Nodule Symptom # 6: A Feeling Like Things Get Stuck In Your Throat Sometimes When Eating
- What to do about it?
A thyroid nodule that causes any symptom of swallowing will need to be removed with surgery. The vast majority of these are simply large, benign goiters and only very few are cancerous. But like almost all thyroid nodules that cause symptoms, surgery will be necessary for this group. Many of these goiters won’t need a biopsy because it can be hard to get all the way to the back of the neck with a needle. Almost all of these will need a CAT scan to give the surgeon a better understanding of how big the goiter is and where it goes.
Thyroid Nodule Symptom # 4: A Cough That Just Won’t Go Away Frequent Coughing And A Need To Keep Clearing Your Throat
- What to do about it?
Thyroid nodules that cause the patient to cough should always be evaluated with an ultrasound scan. Occasionally a CAT scan is required because it is better at looking at big thyroid goiters than ultrasound is . Sometimes it just can’t be known for sure if the thyroid nodule is actually causing the coughing. Often these patients undergo a laryngoscopy . If the thyroid nodule is causing the coughing, or there is a high liklihood it is the cause, then surgery is indicated. Of course, it is now very important for you to chose your surgeon wisely. The nerves to the vocal cords are occasionally damaged by a surgeon removing a thyroid and this will cause severe horseness and a loss of voice for months or even forever. We have an entire page dedicated to helping you chose a surgeon wisely!
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What Else Could It Be
A lump in your thyroid could be caused by an infection or a goiter, which is an abnormal growth of the thyroid gland. It might not be cancerous at all. Lumps in the thyroid usually arenât.
But itâs possible to have thyroid cancer without any symptoms at all.
Your doctor will examine your thyroid during routine physical exams. If you have any symptoms between checkups, such as a new nodule on the gland or a rapidly growing one, you should make an appointment to have your thyroid gland checked. Your doctor will do several tests to diagnose the source of the problem and decide on the best treatment.
Acute Or Infectious Thyroiditis
Acute or infectious thyroiditis is usually caused by a bacterial infection. It’s rare and associated with a weakened immune system or, in children, a problem;with the development of the thyroid.
Symptoms may include pain in the throat, feeling generally unwell, swelling of the thyroid gland and, sometimes,;symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland or symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland.
Symptoms usually get better when the infection is treated with;antibiotics.
Thyroid pain can be managed with painkillers like ibuprofen.
If symptoms are severe with signs of infection an ultrasound scan of the thyroid may be needed to check for other problems.
Children usually need an operation to remove the abnormal part of the thyroid.
Page last reviewed: 24 September 2020 Next review due: 24 September 2023
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Thyroid Goiter: When Is A Radioiodine Scan Ordered
If you have a thyroid goiter and your blood tests also demonstrate that your thyroid hormone level is too high , this is the only instance that a radioiodine scan is indicated. In these cases, the thyroid stimulating hormone will be very low and in cases of Grave’s disease, the thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin will be very high. The thyroid goiter patient may or may not have recognized symptoms of their hyperthyroidism.
During the thyroid scan, the patient will be given a small amount of radioactive iodine in a pill and a special imaging camera is utilized to determine how much iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland and if the thyroid goiter takes up iodine throughout the thyroid gland or whether there is a single “hot” area in the thyroid , relative to the remainder of the thyroid gland . If a thyroid nodule has less iodine uptake than the rest of the thyroid gland, then the thyroid nodule is called a “cold nodule”. In patients with multinodular goiter, frequently several of the nodules of the thyroid will be cystic and filled with fluid. These cystic areas of a multinodular goiter are expected to take up less iodine than the rest of the gland and appear “cold”.
Hot nodules are almost always non-cancerous but the preferred management of hot nodules is frequently surgery since it is a clear, safe and 100% effective therapy for the hyperthyroidism.
How Is Subacute Thyroiditis Diagnosed
Your doctor will feel and examine your neck to see if the thyroid gland is enlarged or inflamed. Theyll also ask you about your symptoms and your recent medical history. Your doctor will be more likely to check for subacute thyroiditis if youve recently had a viral infection in the upper respiratory tract.
Your doctor will order a blood test to confirm a subacute thyroiditis diagnosis. This test will check the levels of certain hormones in your blood. Specifically, the blood test will measure your thyroid hormone, or free T4, and thyroid stimulating hormone levels. The free T4 and TSH levels are part of whats called an internal feedback loop. When one level is high, the other level is low, and vice versa.
The results of the blood test will vary depending on the stage of the disease. In the initial stages, your free T4 levels will be high while your TSH levels will be low. In the later stages, your TSH levels will be high while your T4 levels will be low. An abnormal level of either hormone indicates subacute thyroiditis.
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Thyroiditis Causes And Types
Many things can make your thyroid swell. You may have gotten an infection from a virus or bacteria. You may be taking a drug likeÂ;lithiumÂ;orÂ;interferon. Or you may have problems with your immune system.
These are the most common causes:
- Hashimoto’s disease.Â;This is the most common type of thyroiditis. Your immune system attacks your thyroid and slowly weakens the gland until it canât make enough thyroid hormones.
- Subacute thyroiditis.Â;This type is often triggered by an infection. Thereâs usually a pattern of how the thyroid functions. First, the thyroid and neck area are painful. Then, the thyroid makes too much hormone, called hyperthyroidism. Then, your thyroid works normally, followed by a time where the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone. This is called hypothyroidism. After about 12 to 18 months, thyroid function returns to normal.
- Postpartum thyroiditis.Â;This type begins within a year after childbirth, particularly in women with a history ofÂ;thyroid issues. With treatment, the thyroid usually recovers within 18 months.
- Silent thyroiditis.Â;As the name suggests, there are no symptoms with this type. Itâs similar to postpartum thyroiditis, and recovery usually takes up to 18 months. It starts with a phase of too much hormone production, followed by a longer period of the thyroid making too little.
What Causes Thyroiditis
The cause of thyroiditis depends on the type of disease you have. Most types occur when your immune system attacks the thyroid gland. This causes inflammation and damages the thyroid cells. The reason for the attack often is an autoimmune disease, such as Hashimotos.
Other types of thyroiditis occur from use of radiation or certain medicines. Viral or bacterial infections also may cause thyroiditis.
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What Causes Goiters
Goiters can happen due to inflammation of the thyroid gland or when the gland makes too much or too little thyroid hormone. A goiter also can develop with other thyroid problems, such as infections of the thyroid or thyroid cysts, tumors, or thyroid cancer. People who don’t get enough iodine in their diets also can get an enlarged thyroid. But this is rare in the United States because foods here usually supply enough iodine.
Kids can be born with a goiter or develop one later in life. A goiter that’s present at birth is called a congenital goiter. These can be caused by:
- a genetic disease that prevents the baby from producing thyroid hormone properly
- thyroid issues in the mother during pregnancy
- an expectant mother taking medicines or other substances that affect the baby’s thyroid
- the child being born without half of the thyroid, causing the remaining half to get bigger
A goiter that develops later is called an acquired goiter. In the United States, most acquired goiters are caused by:
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: The immune system attacks the thyroid, making it swell. Sometimes this swelling can be dramatic and even look like a growth. Over time, the thyroid can become so damaged that it can’t make enough thyroid hormone. In that case, a person might need to take a thyroid hormone.
Viral or bacterial infections: Infections can cause inflammation and enlargement of the thyroid. These goiters are often painful.
What Is The Thyroid
The thyroid is a small gland below the skin and muscles at the front of the neck, at the spot where a bow tie would rest.
It’s brownish red, with left and right halves that look like a butterfly’s wings. It weighs less than an ounce, but helps the body do many important things, such as grow, regulate energy, and go through sexual development.
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Causes Of An Enlarged Thyroid
Knowing that your thyroid is enlarged is not a diagnosis by itself.;
It’s more helpful to think of an enlarged thyroid gland as an observation or as a description of what is happening.;
This is because there are actually many different conditions which result in thyroid gland enlargement.;
These conditions range from infections, inflammation of the gland, nutrient deficiencies, cancer and even autoimmune disease.;
An important part of treating an enlarged thyroid gland is correctly identifying and diagnosing what is happening.;
This important step can be done through blood testing and imaging .;
The range of medical conditions which can cause thyroid gland enlargement include:;
- Thyroid nodules;and thyroid cysts
- Thyroiditis caused by inflammation, infection or autoimmune disease
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis;
- Iodine deficiency;
These diseases can be differentiated based on how they present , how they affect the size of your thyroid gland , how they look on ultrasound imaging and how they affect thyroid hormone production.;
How Are Goiters Treated
Depending on the test results, a goiter might not need to be treated. If it does, treating the thyroid disease causing the goiter usually will decrease or control the enlargement.
Surgery might be needed if the thyroid keeps getting bigger even with treatment and causes discomfort or a very large lump in the neck.
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