Some people with Graves' disease or Hashimoto's thyroiditis experience tendon and joint inflammation. Painful tendonitis and bursitis of the shoulder, for example, was reported in a greater number of Graves' disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis patients, compared to the general population. This is likely to be consequent to untreated hypothyroidism, present in many Hashimoto's patients before thyroid hormone therapy and in Graves' disease patients after surgery, radioactive iodine, or the natural process of the disease has destroyed their thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism may cause fluid to accumulate around the joints, and its effects on muscle pain and stiffness add to the joint symptoms. Accumulation of fluid or thickening of tissues around tendons may compress nerves at critical places, particularly in the wrists, causing carpal tunnel syndrome.
On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis, a more serious autoimmune joint disease, appears to be only slightly more common among thyroid patients than the general population. Nevertheless, it can cause inflammation of many joints in the body including knuckles, wrists, and elbows. Stiffness tends to be more severe in the morning. If you are either hyper- or hypothyroid and have noticed this kind of pain or stiffness, ask your doctor to recommend appropriate medication for arthritic symptoms. Sometimes, pain and stiffness will improve when the thyroid condition is corrected.
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