Painless thyroiditis, also called subacute lymphocytic thyroiditis, is the type of thyroiditis that may occur in women after they give birth. Initially the overactive or hyperthyroid phase is more common with the destruction of thyroid tissue caused by inflammation. This results in excess thyroid hormone being released into the blood. As a result patients may have a slight enlargement of the thyroid gland and may notice increased anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, weight loss, and difficulty concentrating.
This overactive phase is diagnosed by blood tests to measure the abnormally increased levels of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream and also sometimes the abnormal antibodies, anti-microsomal and antithyroglobulin antibodies During this hyperthyroid phase, treatment is usually not recommended because this phase usually lasts for a short period of time, about 2 to 4 months. However, if the symptoms are extreme, beta blockers may be used to slow the heart rate and decrease nervousness.
The second phase of postpartum thyroiditis is an underactive or hypothyroid period and usually occurs 3 to 8 months postpartum. This phase can be characterized by a slight enlargement of the thyroid gland and symptoms of weight gain, fatigue, lack of energy and often depression. In fact, some cases of postpartum depression have actually been linked to postpartum thyroid disease and are readily treatable. Permanent hypothyroidism may develop especially if you have high antibody levels or a severe hypothyroid phase. Treatment for this hypothyroid phase is with thyroid hormone medication for about six months. After this time, the medication is stopped to determine whether or not the thyroid has recovered its normal function. If so, the medication may be stopped permanently, otherwise the medication must be resumed because of permanent injury to the thyroid gland.