A goiter is an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. It can occur when your thyroid is producing too many or not enough hormones. However, it can also happen if your thyroid is functioning correctly. A goiter’s presence can indicate that a condition or infection is causing the thyroid to grow abnormally. If you suspect your thyroid is over- and under-active, see your doctor right away.
What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland located in the lower front of your neck. The thyroid is responsible for releasing hormones that regulate many aspects of the body. Some essential features include keeping you warm, giving you energy, and keeping all organs functioning correctly. Thyroxine is the name of the hormone the thyroid gland produces.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism happens when your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroxine. When this happens, you cannot regulate your body because of the lack of hormones. A common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease or radiation treatment for cancer. A goiter might be present due to this condition. On the other hand, hypothyroidism can also cause goiters.
What is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism occurs when your body produces too much of the thyroid hormone. This condition means that the thyroid gland is overactive. The proper term used for this condition may also be called Thyrotoxicosis. Hyperthyroidism can cause you to lose weight rapidly and also create an irregular heartbeat. If this occurs, seek medical advice.
What causes it?
One of the most well-known causes is an iodine deficiency. With an iodine deficiency, your body sends signals to the pituitary gland to stimulate the hormone. This specific hormone will make the thyroid gland produce more thyroxine and cause it to grow, resulting in a possible goiter.
How is it diagnosed?
To diagnose a goiter, your doctor will perform a few tests. One of these examinations requires taking a blood sample to check if your thyroid is overactive or underactive. If the results are inconclusive or inadequate, you may need to undergo more testing. Some of these other labs include radioactive iodine testing, thyroid ultrasound, and a fine needle aspiration biopsy.
Can it go away on its own?
In some cases, it can disappear on its own, but it is necessary to receive treatment from a medical provider. There are some risks associated with just trying to let a goiter go away on its own. The goiter may cause the thyroid gland to stop producing thyroxine entirely.
How is a goiter treated?
If your doctor finds that an iodine deficiency caused it, you will be given an iron supplement to help reduce the size of the goiter. Other causes will require prescription medications, especially if you have hypothyroidism. If your doctor diagnoses you with hyperthyroidism, a radioactive iodine test will help reduce the size of the goiter.
When is surgery required?
Surgery may be a requirement when a goiter impairs breathing or makes it difficult to swallow. If your healthcare provider finds that a goiter may be suspicious, or the cause of it is unknown, there may also be surgery to ensure that it isn’t cancer. A doctor may also choose to remove the entire thyroid gland. This procedure is called a thyroidectomy.
What are the risks of thyroid surgery?
Risks associated with removal of a goiter or the thyroid gland are rare. However, some risks may arise. One problem associated with surgery is damage to the vocal cords. The nerves that connect to the vocal cords can sometimes become damaged during operation. The other risk factor is damage to the parathyroid glands, which control the amount of calcium released into your body.
How Can You Prevent a Goiter?
In some cases, goiters are easily preventable with changes in diet. Proper nutrition will ensure that your body is receiving the correct amount of iodine. The most common food item that contains iodine is regular table salt. When used correctly, it will help give your body the iodine it needs. There are some cases, however, where you cannot prevent it. These cases tend to happen when the cause of the goiter is unknown.