Your thyroid is a gland found in
your neck just below your Adam’s apple. It secretes hormones that help regulate
bodily functions, including metabolism, the process that turns food into
energy. It also regulates heart rate, respiration, digestion, and mood. A
condition that increases the size of your thyroid is called a goiter. A goiter
may develop in anyone, but is more common in women. Sometimes, it affects the
way the thyroid functions.
The Types of Goiters
have many causes. As a result, there are different types. These include:
Colloid Goiter (Endemic)
colloid goiter develops from the lack of iodine, a mineral essential to the
production of thyroid hormones. People who get this type of goiter usually live
in areas where iodine is scarce.
cause of a nontoxic goiter is usually unknown, though it may be caused by
medications like lithium. Lithium is used to treat mood disorders
such as a bipolar disorder. Nontoxic goiters don’t affect the production of
thyroid hormone, and thyroid function is healthy. They are also benign.
Toxic Nodular or Multinodular Goiter
type of goiter forms one or more small nodules as it enlarges. The nodules
produce their own thyroid hormone, causing hyperthyroidism.
It generally forms as an extension of a simple goiter.
What Causes a Goiter?
deficiency is the main cause of goiters. Iodine is essential to helping your
thyroid produce thyroid hormones. When you don’t have enough iodine, the
thyroid works extra hard to make thyroid hormone, causing the gland to grow
causes include the following:
disease occurs when your thyroid
produces more thyroid hormone than normal, which is known as hyperthyroidism.
The excessive production of hormones makes the thyroid increase in size.
you have Hashimoto’s disease, the thyroid
doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, causing hypothyroidism. The low thyroid
hormone causes the pituitary gland to make more thyroid-stimulating hormone
(TSH), which causes the thyroid to swell.
people develop thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid
that can cause a goiter.
or fluid-containing cysts may appear on the thyroid and cause it to swell.
These nodules are often noncancerous.
may affect the thyroid, which causes swelling on one side of the gland. Thyroid
cancer is not as common as the formation of benign nodules.
pregnant can sometimes cause the thyroid to become larger.
Who Is at Risk for a Goiter?
You may be at risk for a goiter if you:
- Have a family history of thyroid
cancer, nodules, and other problems that affect the thyroid.
- Don’t get enough iodine in your
- Have a condition that decreases
the iodine in your body.
- Are female. Women have a higher
risk for goiter than men.
- Are over the age of 40. Aging may
affect the health of your thyroid.
- Are pregnant or experiencing
menopause. These risk factors are not easily understood, but pregnancy and menopause may trigger problems in the thyroid.
- Have radiation therapy in the
neck or chest area. Radiation may change the way your thyroid functions.
What Are the Symptoms of a Goiter?
The primary symptom of a goiter is noticeable swelling in your neck. If
you have nodules on your thyroid, they may range in size from very small to
very large. The presence of nodules may increase the appearance of swelling.
Other symptoms include the following:
- difficulty swallowing or
- hoarseness in your voice
- dizziness when you raise your arm
above your head
How Is a Goiter Diagnosed?
Your doctor will check for neck for swelling. They will also order a
number of diagnostic tests that include these below:
Blood tests can detect changes in hormone levels and an increased
production of antibodies, which are produced in response to an infection or
Your doctor may order scans of your thyroid. These scans show the size
and condition of your goiter.
An ultrasound produces images of your neck,
the size of your goiter, and whether there are nodules. Over time, an
ultrasound can show changes in those nodules and the goiter.
A biopsy is a procedure that involves
taking small samples of your thyroid tissue. The samples are sent to a
laboratory for examination.
How Is a Goiter Treated?
Your doctor will decide on a course of treatment based on the size and
condition of your goiter, and symptoms associated with it. Treatment is also
based on health problems that contribute to the goiter.
If you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, medications to treat
these conditions may be enough to shrink a goiter. Medications
(corticosteroids) to reduce your inflammation may be used if you have
Surgical removal of your thyroid, known as thyroidectomy, is an option if yours grows too large or
doesn’t respond to medication therapy.
In people with toxic multinodular goiters, RAI may be necessary. The RAI is ingested orally, and then
travels to your thyroid through your blood, where it destroys the excess
Depending on your type of goiter, you may need to increase or decrease
your iodine intake at home.
If a goiter is small and doesn’t
cause any problems, you may require no treatment at all.
What Is to Be Expected in the Long Term?
Many goiters disappear with
treatment, while others may increase in size. Speak with your doctor if your
symptoms increase or become worse. If your thyroid continues to make more
hormones than you need, this can lead to hyperthyroidism. Not making enough
hormones may lead to hypothyroidism.