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Thyroiditis is inflammation (swelling) of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland produces a hormone called thyroxine (also called T4), which helps regulate many bodily functions. Thyroxine affects almost every cell in the body, including cells in muscles, the brain, the heart and the
Thyroiditis can result in too much thyroxine being produced, resulting in symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Eventually, the inflammation reduces the thyroid's ability to make thyroxine, and too little thyroxine is produced (an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism).
Thyroiditis usually affects young or middle-aged people, and is more common in females than males. If properly monitored and treated, thyroiditis is not a serious disease.
If your child has thyroiditis, they may have:
If their thyroiditis has resulted in low thyroxine levels, they may develop symptoms of hypothyroidism, including:
If your child develops a neck swelling (goitre) or shows any signs of hypothyroidism, have them seen by your GP.
Your child will need to have a blood test to check their thyroxine levels, as well as other thyroid hormone levels. Thyroiditis is diagnosed if high levels of antibodies are found in the blood.
Depending on the level of thyroid hormone in the blood, treatment is recommended for some patients with thyroiditis, and options include thyroxine replacement and surgery. Your doctor will discuss treatment options for your child.
Thyroxine can be given as a thyroid hormone replacement, in tablet form. It may be given to your child as soon as they are diagnosed with thyroiditis.
Thyroxine is given for three reasons:
Sometimes surgery is needed to treat thyroiditis. The operation involves your child having some, or all, of their thyroid gland removed while they are under general anaesthetic.
In addition to the normal surgical risks associated with having an operation and anaesthetic, there is a risk that thyroiditis surgery can result in damaging the parathyroid glands (which lie next to the thyroid gland) or the nerve supplying the vocal cords. You can discuss these
risks with your child's surgeon and anaesthetist before the operation.
If your child has surgery, thyroxine treatment will usually be needed for the rest of your child's life. They will need to have follow-up appointments with their doctor at least once a year to check that the dose of thyroxine is correct.
Thyroiditis can be caused by many things. The most common cause is a chronic (long-term) inflammation of the thyroid gland. This is an autoimmune problem, which means the immune system mistakes the thyroid gland as foreign and starts to attack it.
Are there any side effects of thyroid hormone replacement?
When the correct dose is achieved, there are usually no side
effects from thyroid hormone replacement therapy. The symptoms of low thyroid
hormone levels quickly disappear and most people feel much better.
Isn't the thyroid gland important in the body? If the
thyroid gland is removed in surgery, how will my child's body function
The thyroid gland is a very important part of
the body, but when removed, the thyroid hormone that is no longer produced can
be given as a medication.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital General Medicine department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed September 2018.
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