Goiter is a type of growth in thyroid gland mostly positioned at base of front portion of neck. Thyroid gland has got butterfly shape and is responsible for regulating the metabolism of body. The thyroid hormone released by thyroid glands controls vital functions such as growth, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. The enlargement of thyroid glands caused due to certain disease or a tumor is called goiter.
The main symptom of goiter is the enlarged thyroid gland and its size varies from just a small nodule to large lump in the neck. In some cases, people with simple goiter are likely to develop symptoms of underactive thyroid gland. In very rare scenario it is also possible that the enlargement of thyroid gland chokes the windpipe and esophagus. If this happens then here can be conditions like:
- Difficulty in swallowing
- A feeling of something tight in the throat
Causes of Goiter
There are a number of factors that cause goiter or enlargement of thyroid gland, most common of which include:
Deficiency of iodine: Iodine is present chiefly in seawater and coastal land areas and is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones. As such people residing inland or in elevated areas are at higher risk of having iodine deficiency and therefore the chances of getting goiter among these people are comparatively higher. The iodine deficiency gets bad if the person takes food that inhibit hormone.
Grave’s: In this disease the antibodies that are produced by body’s immune system causes thyroid gland to produce excess of thyroid hormone. As such thyroid swells up due to excess of thyroxin in the body.
Hashimoto: It is an autoimmune disease in which goiter is a result of thyroxin being produced in very lesser quantity than required. It occurs because Hashimoto’s causes thyroid to produce thyroid hormones in reduced quantity, condition also known as hypothyroidism. Reduced thyroxin causes pituitary gland to stimulate thyroid resulting in the enlargement of thyroid gland.
Thyroid cancer: Although this is a less common condition but is associated with goiter as thyroid cancer is accompanied by the enlargement of thyroid gland mostly from one side.
Multinodular goiter and goiter from single thyroid nodules: Nodules are nothing but lumps filled with fluid that grow on both the sides of thyroid and enlarges the gland. Unlike multinodular goiter, goiter caused due to single nodule developed in either side of the thyroid gland is not cancerous.
Pregnancy: HCG or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin is a hormone that is produced during pregnancy. Not often though, but this hormone in some cases can cause enlargement of thyroid gland.
Thyroiditis: It is an inflammatory condition accompanied by swelling of the thyroid gland and pain. Thyroiditis is also characterized by increased or reduced production of thyroxin.
Basically the treatment for goiter depends on the size of goiter, its cause and symptoms. Following are the common treatments for goiter.
Medication: For those having underactive thyroid gland, medications such as Levothroid and Synthroid are given to reduce the release of hormones from pituitary glands that stimulate thyroid. These medications are well known to reduce the size of goiter. On the other hand if goiter is because of hyperactive thyroid glands then it is required to give medications that can bring hormone levels to normal. Aspirin and corticosteroid are prescribed to treat inflammation of thyroid gland.
Surgical procedure: Surgery to treat goiter is done if the patient has goiter of very large size and finds it difficult to breathe and swallow. Surgery is also a solution to thyroid cancer and nodular goiter. In this procedure, all or a portion of goiter is removed.
Radioactive iodine is also used to treat goiter. It is taken orally and works by mixing in the bloodstream thereby destroying thyroid cells. Undoubtedly this helps to reduce the size of goiter but at the time it may lead to a condition of hypothyroidism.