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Welcome to our health education library. The information shared below is provided to you as an educational and informational source only and is not intended to replace a medical examination or consultation, or medical advice given to you by a physician or medical professional.

Goiter

A goiter is an abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland, an organ that releases hormones, which is located in the neck just below the Adam’s apple.

What are the types of goiter?

There are two types of simple goiter: endemic (colloid) and sporadic (nontoxic).

Colloid goiters afflict people living in areas where there is not enough iodine present in their diet, such as those living far from coastal regions. Iodine is a mineral necessary for the production of thyroid hormone.

The factors that cause sporadic goiter are largely unknown, but there have been indications that certain medications such as lithium or aminoglutethimide can cause a nontoxic goiter.

Who are at risk?

Those who are likely to have goiter are people:

  • Who are 40 years of age
  • Has a family history of goiter
  • Are female
  • Not getting enough iodine in the diet

What are the symptoms?

The most obvious manifestation of goiter is a swollen thyroid gland. The size of inflammation may vary from a single small nodule to a large neck lump.

Because of swelling, an enlarged thyroid gland can constrict the windpipe or trachea and esophagus and this can result in:

  • Cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Breathing difficulties (may rarely occur with very large goiters)
  • Neck vein swelling and dizziness when the arms are raised above the head

What tests are used to diagnose goiter?

Hormone test. Blood examinations measuring all the various thyroid hormones will able to determine how the thyroid is functioning. If the thyroid is overactive, the level of thyroid hormone in the blood will be high and the level of thyroid stimulating hormone will be low. If your thyroid is underactive the level of thyroid hormone will be low while the level of TSH will be high.

  • Antibody test. A blood test may confirm the presence of autoimmune antibodies, such as in Graves disease, that are causing the goiter to develop.
  • Ultrasonography. An ultrasound scan is an imaging test will be able to reveal the size of the thyroid gland and the presence of any nodules.
  • Thyroid scan. This scan will help evaluate the structure and function of the thyroid.

What is the treatment for goiter?

The usual treatment employed for an enlarged thyroid includes:

  • Radioactive iodine
  • Surgery
  • Small doses of Lugol’s iodine or potassium iodine solution
  • Treatment with thyroid hormone supplements

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