COVID-19 can affect your thyroid: Here are some signs and symptoms of subacute thyroiditis to look out for -
COVID-19 can affect your thyroid: Here are some signs and symptoms of subacute thyroiditis to look out for
Posted 10 Feb 2021 04:28 PM


COVID-19 can affect your thyroid: Here are some signs and symptoms of subacute thyroiditis to look out for


The novel coronavirus has constantly kept epidemiologists on their toes as newer strains and different after-effects of the virus continue to emerge. The virus itself has surprised us in many ways, one such new finding has hassled experts. An article published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reported that patients who did not previously live with thyroid disease were found to have developed subacute thyroiditis (a thyroid disease of viral or post-viral origin) after having been diagnosed with COVID-19. A similar trend has been noted in various countries and India is no different. Therefore, during and post-COVID recovery, patients and providers are recommended to keep a tab of these symptoms. Moreover, wavering thyroid levels can act as a marker to detect COVID-19, hence, physicians should be alerted about the possibility of this additional clinical manifestation. In this article, Dr Sweta Budyal, consultant endocrinologist and diabetologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, tells us a few things that we should know about subacute thyroiditis or post-viral thyroiditis, including the symptoms and risk factors. Read on.

What is subacute thyroiditis?
Subacute thyroiditis involves inflammation of the thyroid gland, a condition seen after suffering an upper respiratory infection. It is an uncommon condition caused by viral infection of the thyroid gland.

Signs and symptoms of subacute thyroiditis
The most prominent characteristic of subacute thyroiditis is a gradual or a sudden onset of pain in the thyroid gland. Painful enlargement of the thyroid gland may exist for weeks or months. Symptoms of excessive secretion of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) such as nervousness, rapid heart rate, and heat intolerance may be present early in the disease. Later, symptoms of too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) such as fatigue, constipation, or cold intolerance may occur. Eventually, thyroid gland function returns to normal. But this must not be taken lightly.

It is a self-limiting illness with three distinct phases - an initial thyrotoxic phase, followed by hypothyroidism, and then recovery of thyroid function over weeks to months. The symptoms are as follows:
1. Pain in the front of the neck
2. Tenderness when gentle pressure is applied to the thyroid gland (palpation)
3. Fever
4. Weakness and fatigue
5. Nervousness
6. Heat intolerance
7. Weight loss
8. Sweating
9. Diarrhoea
10. Tremors
11. Palpitations

Causes and risk factors for subacute thyroiditis
Mumps virus, influenza virus, and other respiratory viruses have been found to cause subacute thyroiditis. There are multiple potential peripheral and central mechanisms by which COVID-19 infection may lead to subacute thyroiditis. It occurs mostly in middle-aged women with recent symptoms of viral respiratory tract infection.
The good part is that if caught on time, subacute thyroiditis due to COVID-19 shows a good response to anti-inflammatory and corticosteroid therapy. However, it is important to note that doctors treating COVID-19 patients or those who come in contact with such cases must report it at the earliest. Early recognition and timely anti-inflammatory therapy can help in the successful management of the disease.

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