By Doosuur Iwambe
A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland that causes swelling in the neck.
There are various possible causes, but it can be a sign that the thyroid gland is producing too much or too little thyroid hormone. A person may notice tightness in the throat and difficulty swallowing.
According to health experts, the major cause of goiter is Iodine deficiency. Goiter is rare in economically developed countries that add iodine to salt.
Goiters can also occur when the thyroid gland produces either too much thyroid hormone or not enough hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism respectively.
The problem may arise when the pituitary gland stimulates thyroid growth to boost production of the hormone. Enlargement could also occur with normal production of thyroid hormone, such as a nontoxic multinodular gland.
As for developed countries the main cause of goiter is autoimmune disease. Women over the age of 40 are at greater risk of goiter.
Goiters are often harmless and may go away after a short time without treatment. People usually do not need treatment unless the goiter is large and causes bothersome symptoms.
Doctors can diagnose a goiter through a physical exam. They may also request blood tests or scans to find out the cause of the goiter.
In most cases, the only symptom trusted source of a goiter is a swelling in the neck. The swelling may be large enough to feel with the hand.
The degree of swelling and the severity of symptoms produced by the goiter depend on the individual.
When other symptoms occur, the following are most common:
throat tightness, cough, and hoarseness
in severe cases, difficulty breathing. Other symptoms may be present because of the underlying cause of the goiter.
Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, can cause symptoms such as:
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, can cause symptoms such as:
an intolerance to the cold
There are a range of possible causes of a goiter, including:
The most common cause of goiters outside the United States is a lack of iodine in the diet. The thyroid needs iodine to create thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism.
As iodine is less commonly found in plants, vegan diets may lack sufficient iodine. This is less of a problem for vegans who live in countries where manufacturers add iodine to salt.
In some parts of the world, the prevalence of goiters can be as high as 80%. This includes remote mountainous areas of Southeast Asia, Latin America, and central Africa.
Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland, is another cause of goiters. In people with this condition, the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone.
This usually happens as a result of Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immunity turns on itself and attacks the thyroid gland, causing it to swell.
Less common causes of goiters include the following:
Smoking: Thiocyanate in tobacco smoke interferes with iodine absorption and can cause enlargement of the thyroid gland.
Hormonal changes: Pregnancy, puberty, and menopause can affect thyroid function.
Thyroiditis: Inflammation caused by infection, for example, can lead to goiter.
Lithium: This psychiatric drug can interfere with thyroid function.
Too much iodine: This can trigger a swollen thyroid.
Radiation therapy: This also can trigger a swollen thyroid, particularly when administered to the neck.
Thyroid cancer: This is more commonTrusted Source in females.
People over the age of 40 are at greater risk of goiters, as are people with a family history of the condition.
The type of goiter will dictate how it is treated and the possible symptoms. There are several main types of goiters.
Multinodular goiter: In this common condition, multiple nodules develop in the thyroid.
Diffuse smooth goiter: This occurs when the entire thyroid swells. These goiters are associated with overactive and underactive thyroid glands.
Retrosternal goiter: This type of goiter can grow behind the breastbone. This can constrict the windpipe, neck veins, or esophagus, and sometimes requires surgery.
Most simple goiters are preventable through adequate intake of iodine, which is added to table salt in many countries. A range of iodine supplements are also available in health stores.
Medical professionals reserve active treatment of goiters for cases that cause symptoms. If the goiter is small and thyroid function is normal, people do not typically need treatment.