What is A Goiter?

The thyroid gland is located in your neck, below the Adam's apple and above the breast bone. It releases hormones that help to regulate certain functions of your body. When a thyroid gland becomes abnormally enlarged, it is known as goiter. While a goiter doesn't typically cause pain, it may lead to swallowing and breathing difficulties.

Causes of Goiter

Some of the causes of a goiter include:

  • Lack of dietary iodine - iodine is required for your thyroid to produce hormones.
  • Thyroiditis - an inflammation of the thyroid.
  • Nodules developing on thyroid - Nodules, or lumps filled with fluid, develop on the thyroid gland causing it to become enlarged.
  • Thyroid cancer - Not as common as thyroid nodules and can be diagnosed with a biopsy.
  • Pregnancy - the thyroid gland may become enlarged due to a hormone produced during pregnancy.
  • Grave's disease - can cause your thyroid to overproduce certain hormones.
  • Hashimoto's disease - an autoimmune disorder that can cause your thyroid to underproduce certain hormones.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Goiter

The main symptom associated with a goiter is an apparent swelling around the base of your neck. If a nodule or multiple nodules have developed on your thyroid, they can be range from very small to very large and can increase the size of the goiter. Other potential symptoms that may accompany a goiter can include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Breathing or swallowing difficulties
  • Voice hoarseness
  • Dizziness or loss of balance if your arm is raised above your head

Diagnosis of the specific cause of goiters can potentially involve the following tests and examinations:

  • Thyroid scan - will show the condition and size of your goiter.
  • Blood tests - can reveal hormone levels and the amount of antibodies.
  • Ultrasound - will show whether nodules are present on your goiter.
  • Biopsy - small samples are collected from the thyroid's tissue for determining if it is cancerous.

Treatments for Goiter

Treatment for a goiter will vary based on the size, condition, symptoms, and if your goiter is cancerous. Common treatments for goiters involve the following:

  • Prescription dedications to treat hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or inflammation.
  • Radioactive iodine, which is taken orally, is given to people with toxic multinodular goiters works to destroy excess thyroid tissue.
  • Surgical procedures (thyroidectomy) that removes the thyroid.
  • Increasing or decreasing the amount of dietary iodine depending on the cause of your goiter.

Most goiters will go away with treatment; however, some will increase in size. If your symptoms worsen or your goiter increases in size after treatment, speak with your doctor.


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