De Quervain’s Thyroiditis


De Quervain’s Thyroiditis


What is De Quervain’s Thyroiditis?

De Quervain’s thyroiditis, also referred to as subacute granulomatous thyroiditis, giant cell thyroiditis or painful subacute thyroiditis, can affect people of all ages and genders but is most common in females aged between 20 and 50.  It is part of the resolving thyroiditis family and is named after Fritz De Quervain but should not be confused with De Quervain’s syndrome which he also identified.

De Quervain’s thyroiditis usually causes the thyroid gland to swell rapidly resulting in pain and discomfort.  Subsequently, the thyroid gland releases the thyroid hormone into the blood resulting in patients becoming hyperthyroid.


What causes De Quervain’s Thyroiditis

De Quervain’s thyroiditis is often brought on by a viral infection such as mumps, an upper respiratory tract infection, adenovirus or influenza.  Some cases may develop following pregnancy and childbirth.

The symptoms may resolve themselves after a short period of time but can occasionally lead to an underactive thyroid, which may continue to be unsettled for many months before the gland returns to normal.  In more severe cases patients can suffer from infectious thyroiditis or permanent hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement.


What are the symptoms of De Quervain’s Thyroiditis?

Symptoms vary depending on the patient and the severity of the condition but can include:

  • fever
  • pain in the neck, jaw and/or ear
  • inflammation of the thyroid
  • hyperthyroidism
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • palpitations
  • shakes



It is essential to seek a professional diagnosis from your doctor or consultant. This may include a visual examination, blood test, ultrasound and/or fine needle aspiration.



Treatment for De Quervain’s thyroiditis can vary dramatically depending on the individual patient’s needs.  Some sufferers may simply require over the counter pain medication to manage a short-term attack. Salicylates and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may also be used to treat mild to moderate cases.  For more severe cases liothyronine (T3) or levothyroxine (T4) treatment might be considered and if extreme measures are required to benefit the patient’s health and wellbeing then a thyroidectomy may need to be performed.



Prognosis of this condition varies massively between patients.  De Quervain’s thyroiditis can be a reoccurring or permanent illness requiring long-term medication, but it is usually a short-term treatable complaint.


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Adenovirus – any of a group of DNA viruses first discovered in adenoid tissue, most of which cause respiratory diseases

Granulomatous – granuloma is an inflammation found in many diseases.  It is a collection of immune cells known as histiocytes (macrophages)

Hypothyroidism – a term used to describe an under-active thyroid gland

Inflammation – redness, swelling, pain, tenderness, heat, and disturbed function of an area of the body

Insomnia – inability to sleep

Levothyroxine – a synthetic thyroid hormone commonly given to treat an underactive thyroid. It is also known as L-thyroxine

Liothyronine – a synthetic thyroid hormone sometimes given to treat an underactive thyroid

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen

Palpitations – a noticeably rapid, strong or irregular heartbeat due to agitation, exertion or illness

Respiratory – relating to or affecting respiration (action or process of inhaling and exhaling)

Salicylates – medication such as aspirin

Subacute – between acute and chronic

Thyroid – a small butterfly shaped gland with two lobes situated in the front of your neck. The thyroid gland is one of the glands of the endocrine system.  It has two main functions – the control of metabolism – the rate at which all the chemistry of the body works – and the control of growth in early life

Thyroidectomy – a thyroidectomy is the removal of all (total) or part (partial) of the thyroid gland

Thyroiditis – a swelling or inflammation of the thyroid gland causing unusually high or low levels of thyroid hormones in the blood stream



  1. De Quervain’s Thyroiditis Thyroiditis_
  2. Thyroiditis
  3. The management of subacute (De Quervain’s) thyroiditis


Date updated: 21/02/20 (V1.2)
Review date: 09/01/21