What is Postpartum Thyroiditis?
What are the Causes of Postpartum Thyroiditis?Postpartum thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks and destroys the cells of the thyroid gland. In general, women in the postpartum period are more prone to autoimmune diseases.
Conditions that increase the risk of developing postpartum thyroiditis include:
- A high titer of anti-thyroid antibodies
- Past history of thyroid disease
- Presence of type I diabetes
- Family history of thyroid disease
What are the Phases of Postpartum Thyroiditis?Postpartum thyroiditis occurs in two phases. However, both the phases may not be present in all patients:
- A short hyperthyroid phase, where the levels of thyroid hormone are higher than normal. This occurs due to the leaking out of thyroid hormone from the gland following damage to its cells
- A longer hypothyroid phase, where the thyroid hormone levels are lower than normal
What are the Symptoms and Signs of Postpartum Thyroiditis?Symptoms of postpartum thyroiditis depend on the phase of the thyroid disorder.
Symptoms in the hyperthyroid phase include:
- Excessive sweating
- Increased bowel movements
- Weight loss
- Excessive weight gain
- Dry skin and hair
- Excessive sleeping
- Cold intolerance in women
The above symptoms are commonly noted in postpartum women and therefore postpartum thyroiditis may not be suspected and may go unnoticed.
How do you Diagnose Postpartum Thyroiditis?Postpartum thyroiditis is diagnosed based on symptoms of the patient, physical examination and blood tests. Blood tests that are used to diagnose postpartum thyroiditis:
- Thyroid function tests: The blood test measures the levels of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4, and the thyroid stimulating hormone TSH, which stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone. In hyperthyroidism, the levels of T3 and T4 may be above normal while TSH levels are low. The reverse occurs in hypothyroidism
- Anti-thyroid antibodies: High titers of antibodies directed against the thyroid gland, which includes the anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies can be detected in the blood