Goiter is a medical condition in which a person’s thyroid gland swells and becomes abnormally large. The thyroid gland is a small gland located in the neck region. It produces the hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), which are essential for normal growth and metabolism.
In most cases, the swelling feels like a lump in the neck. However, in severe cases, the swelling can be profuse and affect the person’s ability to breathe and swallow.
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The symptoms of Goiter depend on the size of the enlarged thyroid gland and the underlying causes of the condition. Often, the swelling of the gland is barely noticeable and doesn’t cause any pain. However, there can be other symptoms as well as problems related to the goiter. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Swelling or enlargement of the thyroid gland: The size of the thyroid gland is visible as a lump in the front part of the neck.
- Problems in breathing and swallowing (in case of enlargement of thyroid gland)
- Change in voice, experience unusual hoarseness
- Tightness in the throat
There are many causes of Goiter and the line of treatment depends on them. Although, the most common cause of Goiter is Iodine deficiency in one’s diet, it is not the only cause. Dietary changes have helped people to avoid goiter in most countries, however, it still remains a cause of concern in the developing world. The major causes of Goiter are given below:
- Deficiency of Iodine in one’s diet.
- Hyperthyroid or overactive thyroid gland which causes the gland to swell.
- Hypothyroid or underactive thyroid gland, which also causes swelling of the thyroid gland.
- Thyroid Cancer
- Nodules growing in the thyroid
- Certain chemicals like lithium
- Inflammation of thyroid
- Grave’s disease
- Any other problem which causes an abnormality in the production of the hormones.
There are a number of tests as well as examinations performed to diagnose Goiter. If you think you have Goiter, visit your doctor for examination. Your doctor may detect the condition by physically examining your neck (thyroid gland) and ask you to swallow while feeling the thyroid gland. In addition to this simple examination, there are plenty of tests that can be done to assess the situation as well as the underlying causes of Goiter. Here are some of the tests that are helpful in diagnosing Goiter:
- Thyroid Function Test for detecting under or over active thyroid.
- Radioactive Iodine Scan
- Ultrasound Scan
- Fine needle aspiration
The treatment for Goiter depends on its underlying cause. Many times, if the swelling is not very prominent, and the thyroid gland is producing the hormones normally, no treatment is required. In other situations, the treatments for goiters are as follows:
- Goiter caused due to Iodine Deficiency: A simple addition of iodine rich food can quicken the recovery from this condition.
- Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroid): Hormone replacement therapy is usually administered when the thyroid gland does not work as efficiently as it should.
- Overactive Thyroid (Hyperthyroid): For overactive thyroid, medications known as Thionamides are usually administered. In rare cases, the use of radioactive iodine is also done.
- Surgery: If the thyroid is abnormally enlarged, and the patient is having trouble in swallowing or breathing, surgery is recommended.