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Silent Lymphocytic Thyroiditis

(Postpartum Thyroiditis)

by Jerome M. Hershman, MD

Silent lymphocytic thyroiditis (postpartum thyroiditis) is painless, autoimmune inflammation of the thyroid that typically develops after childbirth and goes away on its own.

Silent lymphocytic thyroiditis occurs most often among women, typically three to four months after childbirth, and causes the thyroid to become enlarged without becoming tender. The disorder recurs with each subsequent pregnancy.

For several weeks to several months, people have an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism—see Hyperthyroidism) followed by an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism—see Hypothyroidism) before eventually recovering normal thyroid function.

Hyperthyroidism may require treatment for a few weeks, often with a beta-blocker such as atenolol. During the period of hypothyroidism, the person may need to take thyroid hormone, usually for no longer than about 12 months. However, hypothyroidism becomes permanent in about 10% of people with silent lymphocytics thyroiditis, and these people must take thyroid hormone for the rest of their life.

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