Goiter Picture

Goiter: Causes, Picture, Symptoms and Treatment

Do you see a swelling in your throat? It may indicate towards Goiter. The condition can lead to abnormal enlargement of your thyroid gland. It is a painless condition that often causes no harm to you. But, the large swelling can result in trouble swallowing or breathing properly. Around the world, the problem affects more than 200 million people. Iodine deficiency is the major cause of the problem. The lack of iodine in the diet can result in the problem. While in some areas of the world, excess use of iodized salt can lead to the swelling of the thyroid gland. Do you wish to know more about the issue? Then, read ahead to get comprehensive information on the topic. It will help you deal with the problem properly and avoid any unwanted complications.

Functions Of Thyroid Gland

goiterBefore looking in detail about the problem, you need to understand the function of the thyroid gland. It will help you grasp the impact of the issue better. Generally, your thyroid gland produces two main hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The hormones are important for body function. It circulates in your bloodstream and aids in regulating your metabolism. So, they manage the rate of fats and carbohydrates used by your body. It also helps in controlling your body temperature, regulate heart rate, and control the protein production in your body. The thyroid gland is also responsible for producing calcitonin. It is the hormone that aids in regulating the amount of calcium in your blood. Your pituitary gland and hypothalamus play an important role in controlling the rate of hormone production and release in the body.

Thyroid Gland

The hypothalamus is the specific area at the base of your brain that acts as a thermostat for your thyroid function. The process begins when the hypothalamus signals your pituitary gland to produce TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). So, the pituitary gland, located at the base of your brain releases the TSH. The amount of TSH depends on the thyroxine and T3 levels in your bloodstream. In turn, your thyroid gland regulates the production of hormones depending on the TSH received from the pituitary gland. The swelling of the thyroid gland may not affect the production of hormones. But, it can release too much or too little of thyroxine or T3 causing imbalance in your body.

What Is Goiter?

What Is Goiter

Your thyroid gland secretes thyroxine in your bloodstream. It is an important hormone that helps regulate your regular body functions like turning the food into energy or controlling the metabolism. The hormone also performs the following:

  • Aids respiration
  • Regulates heart rate
  • Control your mood
  • Helps digestion

So, the butterfly-shaped organ found below your neck has important functions to perform. Goiter is the condition occurring when the thyroid gland increase in size. The enlargement of the thyroid gland can affect anyone. But, it is more common among women. The problem can result in regular thyroid functions. So, it can trigger several symptoms in your body.

Symptoms Associated With Goiter

The swelling of the thyroid gland may not trigger symptoms for some people. Others can experience signs and symptoms like:

  • A visible swelling at the base of the neck (it is most visible when you put on makeup or shave)
  • The feeling of tightness in the throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Coughing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing properly

Types Of Goiter

Goiters can affect a person based on the different underlying health conditions. The types of problem depend on the exact cause of the issue. The types can include:

Endemic Goiter/Colloid Goiter

The type of thyroid gland inflammation develops due to the lack of iodine. Iodine is an essential mineral needed for normal thyroid hormone production. People living in areas with scarcity of iodine can suffer from the problem.

Sporadic/Nontoxic Goiter

The exact reason for the type of thyroid gland inflammation remains unknown. But, the problem can occur due to using medication containing lithium. Lithium is known for treating mood disorders. So, it is mostly used by patients with problems like bipolar disorder. The particular type does not affect thyroid hormone production. It is also benign.

Multinodular Goiter or Toxic Nodular

When a person gets affected by the type of thyroid gland enlargement, they can develop one or more small nodules. The nodules can enlarge and produce its thyroid hormone. So, it results in a condition like hyperthyroidism. The goiter forms as an extension of simple thyroid gland enlargement.

Causes OF Goiter Formation

A goiter is an abnormally large thyroid gland. A goiter develops either because the whole gland is swollen or the gland has multiple growths or nodules on it. While some people with a goiter have no symptoms, others may have symptoms of an overactive or underactive thyroid. Several factors can cause your thyroid gland to enlarge. Among the most common are:

Iodine Deficiency

It is the most common cause of swelling of thyroid glands. It is prevalent in countries that experience scarcity of iodine. Iodine is essential for the normal production of thyroid hormone. It is primarily found in seawater. You can also find iodine in the soil in the coastal area. Around the world, some people live in high elevations or inland. Such people can experience iodine deficiency and subsequent development of goiters. When your thyroid gland tries to obtain more iodine, it can result in the enlargement of the gland. When you consume a diet high in hormone-inhibiting foods, your initial iodine deficiency can worsen. So, eating the following foods can cause more trouble:

  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage

The condition mostly affects areas that lack dietary iodine. But, countries that add iodine to the foods or in table salt may not suffer from thyroid enlargement due to iodine deficiency.

Graves’ disease

Thyroid gland swelling can occur when it produces too much thyroid hormone. It occurs due to the condition referred to as hyperthyroidism. Some autoimmune diseases like Graves’ disease cause the antibodies released by the immune system to attack the thyroid gland. It can lead to excess production of thyroxine. So, the overstimulation can result in the swelling of the thyroid gland.

Hashimoto’s disease

Autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s disease can cause hypothyroidism. So, you tend to have an underactive thyroid. The disease can damage your thyroid gland. So, it results in too little production of thyroid hormone. When your pituitary gland senses the low levels of the hormone in your blood, it produces more TSH. The excess TSH can cause overstimulation of your thyroid gland resulting in its abnormal size. Therefore, the deficiency in the hormone can lead to the swelling of the thyroid gland.

Multinodular Goiter

It is another cause of thyroid gland enlargement. When you experience the condition, several solid or fluid-filled lumps can develop on both sides of your thyroid gland. The lumps known as nodules can result in the abnormal enlargement of the overall thyroid gland.

Solitary Thyroid Nodules

When people suffer from the problem, it causes the development of a single nodule on one part of the thyroid gland. The nodules formed are benign. So, they do not have malignant cells causing cancer.

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer can occur rarely leading to the swelling of the thyroid glands. In such cases, you need a biopsy to accurately determine the presence of cancerous cells in the thyroid gland.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body produces a specific hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). It is the hormone released by the placenta after implantation in the womb. The release of HCG can lead to a slight swelling of your thyroid gland.

Inflammation

You can suffer from an inflammatory condition referred to as thyroiditis leading to pain as well as swelling in the thyroid gland. The condition can result in the over or underproduction of thyroxine.

Risk Factors Leading To Goiter

The selling of thyroid glands can affect anyone. You can suffer from the problem by birth or at any time throughout life. But, some risk factors can make it more common for some people. So, the factors include:

Lack Of Iodine In Diet

In some parts of the world, people suffer from a short supply of iodine. They do not have access to iodine or iodine supplements. Such people can suffer from thyroid enlargement problem more compared to others.

Sex

Women are more prone to thyroid disorder compared to men. So, females can development the enlargement of the thyroid gland.

Age

People over the age of forty suffer from the risk of getting goiters.

Medical History

If you have someone in your family experiencing autoimmune disease, then you suffer more risk of swelling of the thyroid gland. People having parents or other family members with thyroid disorders can also face a high risk of experiencing a problem.

Pregnancy And Menopause

Though the underlying reasons remain unclear, many women suffer abnormal thyroid gland during pregnancy and menopause.

Certain Medications

People who take certain medication to treat underlying health issue can face the risk of thyroid gland enlargement. It is common for people who have heart disease or psychiatric problem. So, the following drugs can increase the risk of the problem:

  • Amiodarone used to treat heart diseases
  • Lithium used to treat depression or other mental problems

Radiation Exposure

People who suffer from cancer can undergo radiation treatment. Patients who have had radiation treatments to the chest or neck area can face the risk of swelling of the thyroid gland. Individuals exposed to nuclear radiation accidentally, by working in the facility, or testing it can also face the risk of goiter.

Complications Due To Goiter

In most of the cases, the small goiters cause no physical or cosmetic problems. So, you mostly ignore the issue. But, the larger swelling can trigger several complications like;

  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness in your throat
  • Persistent Coughing

The condition caused by other health condition like hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can result in other symptoms in the body. So, a person affected by the issue can observe symptoms like:

  • Unexpected weight loss/weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability

Diagnosis Of Goiter

The enlarged thyroid gland can result in several physical signs. You will feel uncomfortable due to the different signs triggered by the problem. Therefore, you need to see your doctor to get the precise diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor can perform the following tests to detect the problem:

Physical Examination

Your doctor can detect the enlarged thyroid gland by just touching your neck. By feeling the thyroid gland in your throat, your doctor can discover the problem. The routine physical test also involves swallowing to discover the enlarged gland. In some cases, the medical professional can feel the presence of nodules. Based on the physical assessment, your doctor suggests the following tests to confirm the issue.

Hormone Test

The hormone test detects the hormone amounts produced by the thyroid as well as the pituitary gland. The underactive thyroid gland produces low amounts of thyroid hormone. In such cases, you can observe high levels of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). It is because your pituitary gland tries to stimulate your thyroid gland to produce more hormone. So, the blood hormone levels can reveal the issues with your thyroid gland. Goiter occurring due to an overactive thyroid gland can result in lead to high levels of thyroid hormone in the blood and a low TSH level.

Antibody Test

In some cases, the swelling of the thyroid gland occurs due to the production of abnormal antibodies. So, an antibody test can reveal the presence of such issues. Your blood is tested in a laboratory to detect such antibodies.

Ultrasonography

Ultrasonography

It is the imaging test that can reveal the size of the thyroid gland and detect its abnormality. It is suggested by your doctor when the physical assessment may not reveal the nodules in the gland. So, a transducer (a wand-like device) is held over the neck to form images on the computer. The device uses sound waves that bounce through the neck and back. It can provide a clear picture of the thyroid gland, which makes diagnosis easier.

Thyroid Scan

Thyroid scans offer comprehensive information on the size and nature of the thyroid gland. The invasive process offers a better understanding of the working of the thyroid gland. It is more time consuming and expensive diagnostic technique compared to ultrasound tests. But, the images can help your doctor diagnose different problems affecting the gland.

A radioactive isotope is injected into your vein present on the inside of your elbow. With the help of a special camera, sophisticated images of the thyroid gland appear on the computer screen. The time taken for the test depends on how long the isotopes takes to reach the thyroid gland.

Biopsy

It is the invasive test that can detect cancerous presence in the thyroid gland. So, it helps detect if cancer causes the enlargement of the thyroid gland. The doctor uses a fine-needle aspiration, the tissue or fluid sample gets collected for testing. An ultrasound image can offer proper guidance to reach the thyroid gland. So, your doctor can use the needle into the gland to take the fluid sample or tissue for analysis.

Based on the severity of the issue, your doctor can suggest the ideal treatment plan.

Treatment Options For Goiter

The treatment for the enlarged thyroid gland depends on the signs and symptoms you suffer. The size of the goiter can also play an important part in determining the treatment. So, your doctor can recommend the following:

Observation

For small-sized goiter that causes no problem, your doctor adopts a wait and watch approach. It is mostly selected when your thyroid functions normally. The functioning of the thyroid gland is closely monitored to check any signs of a problem.

Medications

The swelling of the thyroid gland can occur due to hypothyroidism or inflammation of the thyroid gland. So, the medication is provided based on the underlying condition.

Treat Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism occurs due to the excess secretion of thyroid hormones. So, your doctor prescribes medication to manage the problem. Thyroid replacement medications can relieve the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism. So, the following medication can help manage the problem:

  • Synthroid
  • Levoxyl
  • Tirosint

The medication can slow the release of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) from your pituitary gland. Therefore, the medicines can offer relief by decreasing the swelling of the thyroid gland.

Manage Thyroid Gland Inflammation

Medications like corticosteroid or aspirin medication can cure inflammation of the thyroid gland. After reducing the inflammation, you need medication to normalize the abnormal thyroid levels. For problems like hyperthyroidism induced goiters, your doctor gives medications to normalize the hormones.

Surgery

The swelling of the thyroid gland can cause severe discomfort. It can make you uncomfortable or cause trouble breathing or swallowing. So, your doctor suggests an invasive procedure to remove a part of the complete thyroid gland. The procedure, total/partial thyroidectomy depends on the severity of the problem. The surgical option is also chosen when you suffer from nodular goiter that causes hyperthyroidism. Invasive surgery can also help treat thyroid cancer. Depending on the amount of thyroid gland removed, you need to take medications after the surgery. So, your doctor prescribes levothyroxine to normalize the hormone levels.

Radioactive Iodine

In some cases, radioactive iodine can offer relief to the overactive thyroid gland. You need to take the radioactive iodine orally. It reaches your thyroid gland through the bloodstream. It destroys the excess thyroid cells, causing the problem. So, the treatment can reduce the size of the enlarged thyroid gland. But, it can result in the underactive thyroid gland.

Lifestyle And Home Remedies To Overcome Goiter

In some cases, lifestyle changes can help you overcome thyroid gland swelling. So, you can tweak your diet based on your specific problem to see results:

Get Enough Iodine

Some people suffer from the problem due to inadequate iodine consumption. The lack of iodine in the required amounts can cause the swelling of the thyroid gland. So, you need to ensure you get iodine in your diet. Try to include the following:

  • Iodized salt
  • Shrimp
  • Shellfish
  • Cow’s milk
  • Yogurt
  • Seaweed/seaweed sushi

People living near coastal areas can consume locally grown vegetables and fruits. It contains high levels of iodine. In normal cases, you need 150 micrograms of iodine per day (it roughly amounts to less than half a teaspoon of iodized salt). Lactating and pregnant women need adequate amounts of iodine for normal thyroid functioning. It is also essential for infants and children. Therefore, take the right amount to avoid any unwanted problems.

Avoid Excess Consumption Of Iodine

In some cases, excess iodine consumption can result in thyroid gland enlargement. So, you need to avoid consuming excess iodine. Control having the following items in case of such issues:

  • Seaweed
  • Iodine-fortified salt
  • Shellfish
  • Iodine supplements

Conclusion

In most cases, goiter does not cause any complication due to its benign nature. It is better to seek medical help when you see the swelling of your throat. Simple thyroid enlargement can go away on its own with doctor monitoring. If the size of the swelling increases, your doctor can suggest the ideal treatment option to manage the problem successfully. In rare cases, the swelling can indicate the presence of malignant cells. You need immediate medical attention to deal with such problems. With proper medical assistance and care, you can manage the symptoms associated with the problem and prevent any other complications.

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