Goiter

A Goiter is an abnormal enlargement of thyroid gland which is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of your neck. It indicates a condition, in which, thyroid grows abnormally. Goiter commonly develops as a result of iodine deficiency or due to thyroid problem. In other words, if your thyroid gland is producing too much hormones ie. (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism), you can develop a goiter. Women are more likely to develop a goiter than men.

Goiter Image
Enlarged Thyroid Image

It is important to know that, having a goiter doesn’t always mean that your thyroid gland is malfunctioning. However, an enlarged thyroid gland can produce a normal amount of hormones. Goiters are generally pain less but some times you may feel difficulty in swallowing food and breathing.

Symptoms

Very primary symptom of goiter is a noticeable swelling in front of the neck. Not all the goiter cause symptoms but in some cases people experience symptoms given below:

  • Tightness in throat
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Lump in neck
  • Coughing
  • Voice hoarseness
  • In severe cases, difficulty breathing

What causes goiter?

There are different conditions that causes Goiter.

Iodine Deficiency: The primary activity of the thyroid gland is to concentrate iodine from the blood to make thyroid hormone. The gland cannot make enough thyroid hormone if it does not have enough iodine.

Therefore, due to iodine deficiency the individual will become hypothyroid. Consequently, the pituitary gland in the brain senses the thyroid hormone level is too low and sends a signal Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to the thyroid. This hormone (TSH) stimulates the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone and to grow in size. Hence, this abnormal growth in size of thyroid is termed a “goiter.”

Hashimoto’s disease : The main cause of goiter in developed countries is autoimmune disease. Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder. It damages your thyroid, causing low production of hormones ie. (Hypothyroidism).

As a result, sensing a low hormone level, your pituitary gland produces more Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) . This hormone stimulates the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone and to grow in size. This abnormal growth in size of thyroid is termed a “goiter.”

Hormonal Changes: Women leading to menopause can develop a goiter as there are so many hormonal changes occurs at that time. Women above age of 40 have more chances to develop it. Pregnancy also makes so many hormonal changes in women, so this can also lead to develop a goiter.

Family History: Hereditary factors may cause goiter. If one of the parent is suffering from it, then you may have chances to develop it as well.

How is goiter diagnosed?

  • Physical Examination: Your doctor may be able to tell if the thyroid gland has grown by feeling the neck area for nodules and signs of tenderness.
  • Ultrasound of the thyroid: It is a procedure which sends high frequency sound waves through thyroid to find out the gland’s size and nodules. It can be used to visualize the thyroid gland.
  • Hormone test: A blood test which measures the hormone levels of the body to check the proper working of thyroid.
  • CT scan: CT scan or MRI is used to measure the size of goiter.
  • Biopsy: In this procedure a small specimen is taken from thyroid tissue with a needle and send it to laboratory for further examination.

Treatment

Your doctor will decide on a course of treatment based on the size and condition of your goiter, and symptoms associated with it.

  • Medications: If you have hypothyroidism, then thyroid hormone replacement with levothyroxine will resolve the symptoms of it. This also slow down the release of thyroid stimulating hormone from your pituitary gland, often decreasing the size of the goiter.
  • Radioactive iodine treatment: This treatment is used in cases of an overactive thyroid gland. It involves taking radioactive iodine orally. Furthermore, iodine goes to thyroid gland through your bloodstream and kills thyroid cells. The treatment results in a diminished size of the goiter. However, After this treatment, the patient usually has to take thyroid hormone replacement therapy for the rest of his or her life.
  • Surgery: It is performed to remove all or part of your thyroid gland. It may also be needed if the goiter is large and causes problems with breathing and swallowing. Surgery is also sometimes used to remove nodules. It must be done if cancer is present. You may also need to take levothyroxine after surgery, depending on the amount of thyroid removed.

Diet and Yoga

Diet: If your goiter is caused by your diet then you may need to increase or decrease your iodine intake at home.

Kindly discuss your diet plan with your doctor. He/She will tell you how much iodine is required per day for keeping your thyroid healthy.

Yoga: Yoga brings many benefits to your overall health. It can help treat your thyroid gland naturally. Several studies have shown the positive effect of yoga for improving thyroid function.

However, it is important to know that Yoga can not cure but can help maintain and improve your thyroid function. Kindly note, Yoga is a complementary therapy and should not be used as a replacement for your existing medical treatment. Therefore, before you start practicing yoga for thyroid problems, make sure to consult with your doctor. 

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