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Viral thyroid disorder may be a new complication of COVID-19

Recently, doctors have discovered a new thyroid disease in COVID-19 patients.

One peculiarity of COVID-19 is that it throws up new complications and symptoms on a regular basis. Now experts say it can lead to a viral thyroid disorder.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Published : May 23, 2020 2:25 PM IST

COVID-19 is a viral respiratory infection. The virus enters your body through the nose and mouth. Although the main symptoms of this condition are respiratory in nature, patients also exhibit symptoms of other diseases like gastrointestinal disease (diarrhoea), eye infection (conjunctivitis) and brain infections. This highly contagious new variant of coronavirus is dangerous for the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. One peculiarity of COVID-19 that has emerged is that it has the habit of throwing up new complications and symptoms on a regular basis. This is what is making the work of scientists trying to develop a cure so difficult.

Now, according to a new study at the University Hospital Pisa, COVID-19 may cause thyroid disease in patients. Oxford's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism published this study.

New thyroid disease discovered in COVID-19 patients

Recently, doctors have discovered a new thyroid disease in COVID-19 patients. According to researchers of the abovementioned study, COVID-19 can lead to subacute thyroiditis. According to them, an 18-year-old woman who was tested positive after her father was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the University Hospital Pisa in Italy on 21st February may be the first patient to display this peculiarity. She was initially asymptomatic but her test came back positive and, soon after, she started showing symptoms. The second and third tests on 13th and 14th March came back negative. But, on 17th March, she complained of fever, fatigue and radiating pain in her neck and jaw. Doctors saw that she had an increased heart rate and an enlarged thyroid which was painful on palpation. Her laboratory tests showed high levels of thyroid hormones, with increased inflammatory markers and white blood cell count. Her neck ultrasound showed a dense and solid area on both sides. The woman's thyroid functions and imagings were normal in the past month. Soon, the doctors came back with a diagnosis of subacute thyroiditis and she was immediately put on prednisone, an anti-inflammatory medication. Following this, her symptoms of neck pain and fever vanished in two days and the patient recovered completely within a week.

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What is subacute thyroiditis?

This is a thyroid disorder that causes inflammation of the thyroid gland. The exact cause of this condition is known but it is usually seen after an upper respiratory tract infection. It is common in viral diseases like mumps, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). People with this condition often exhibit symptoms of hyperthyroidism and may go on to develop symptoms of hypothyroidism. Though a temporary disorder caused by a virus, subacute thyroiditis can lead to permanent complications if left untreated.

Symptoms of subacute thyroiditis

Usual symptoms of this condition is pain in the neck and jaw and abnormal thyroid function. This is a rare type of thyroiditis that causes pain and discomfort in the thyroid. In some cases, this pain might also spread to other parts of your neck, ears, or jaw. You may also experience fever, fatigue, weakness, difficulty swallowing and a hoarse voice.

Treatment options

Most of the time, your doctor will recommend anti-inflammatory medications to treat the condition. Sometimes, corticosteroids and beta blockers may also be recommended.

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