What is a Goiter?
A goiter is the enlargement of your thyroid, which is a small and very important gland located in the front part of your neck, responsible for the creation of some crucial hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4); which are responsible for maintaining the body metabolism regulation. Goiter usually affects women and is related to a variety of thyroid diseases.
Goiter Signs and Symptoms
Usually, goiters don’t show any additional symptom besides the visible swelling of the front part of your neck, due to the enlarged thyroid. However, when they do cause symptoms, those might include:
- Finding difficult to swallow.
- In severe cases, breathing difficulty.
A goiter is not always the expression of a pathology. Sometimes, despite the enlargement, the thyroid can produce enough hormones to keep your body functional. However, some other times, it’s related to some pathological causes, including:
- Iodine deficiency. Iodine is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones. Goiter occurs after an iodine poor diet, and the compensatory effort of the gland to obtain more iodine. This is the most common cause of goiter around the world, but the incidence has been reduced since the introduction of iodine to table salt.
- Graves’ disease. Due to the constant antibodies’ stimulus over the thyroid.
- Hashimoto’s disease. Even though Hashimoto’s disease causes a low thyroid hormone production (hypothyroidism), a goiter can be also seen. Because of the constant stimulus of the TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), the hormone produced in your brain that stimulated the thyroid gland, as an effort to increase the hormone production.
- Multinodular goiter. Here, the appearance of multiple nodules in the thyroid can increase its size.
- Thyroiditis. This is the inflammation of the gland due to some viral, bacterial or immune cause.
- Thyroid cancer
Sometimes, a goiter can be diagnosed just by practicing a simple neck palpation exam. In that case, your doctor will request some additional tests to determine the underlying cause of your condition, including:
- Blood test. In order to detect your thyroid hormones levels.
- Antibodies analysis. In case your goiter is related to some autoimmune cause (Graves or Hashimoto’s disease).
- Thyroid ultrasound. The image reveals the real size of your thyroid and the presence of nodules.
- Thyroid biopsy. To check for cancer.
Your endocrinologist who is trained for many years in this particular field has a lost experience of managing such conditions.
Goiter treatment depends on many variables, like the size of your goiter, its underlying cause, the severity of the symptoms and your health condition. In some cases, goiters don’t need any treatment. However, in case your goiter is causing troubles, your doctor will suggest the following options:
Depending on the results of your blood tests and the situation of your thyroid hormones, your doctor may prescribe you some hormone replacement or anti-thyroid drugs depending on whether you are suffering from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
If you have thyroid cancer or multinodular goiter, show signs of difficulty to breath or swelling, surgery will be a valid option for you. The surgery involves the total or partial removal of the gland and thyroid hormone supplementation after surgery.