It is true that as newer strains and different after-effects of the virus continue to emerge, doctors and scientists stay wary. According to an article published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 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.
Dr Sweta Budyal, consultant endocrinologist and diabetologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund tells indianexpress.com that during and post-COVID recovery, patients and providers are recommended to keep tab of symptoms. “Wavering thyroid levels can act as a marker to detect COVID, and hence, physicians should be alerted about the possibility of this additional clinical manifestation,” she says.
What is subacute thyroiditis?
Also known as post viral thyroiditis, it 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 gland. Mumps virus, influenza virus, and other respiratory viruses have been found to cause subacute thyroiditis, the doctor explains.
What are the causes and risk factors?
“The most prominent characteristic of subacute thyroiditis is gradual or a sudden onset of pain in the gland. Painful enlargement of the thyroid gland may exist for weeks or months. Symptoms of excessive secretion of thyroid hormone (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,” warns Dr Budyal.
She goes on to say that 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. 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.”
* Pain in the front of the neck
* Tenderness when gentle pressure is applied to the thyroid gland (palpation)
* Weakness and fatigue
* Heat intolerance
* Weight loss
If caught on time, subacute thyroiditis due to COVID-19 shows a good response to anti-inflammatory and corticosteroid therapy. It is, however, important to note that the doctor treating COVID patients, or those who come in contact with such cases must report it at the earliest, says the doctor.