Goiter (enlarged thyroid)

Neck | Endocrinology and Metabolism | Goiter (enlarged thyroid) (Disease)


Goiter refers to an enlargement of the thyroid gland. There are two varieties of simple goiter: endemic goiter, which occurs because of iodine deficiency in the diet, and sporadic goiter, which often develops for no known reason. In both cases, the primary symptom is an enlargement of the thyroid gland, a small gland in the front of the neck.

A person with endemic goiter has an enlarged thyroid gland. In endemic goiter, the thyroid cells are stimulated to grow, which may result in an over active thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive one (hypothyroidism). A goiter that produces excess thyroid hormone is called a toxic goiter. A non-toxic goiter produces normal levels of thyroid hormone.

Endemic goiter may cause symptoms of hyperthyroidism or symptoms of hypothyroidism. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include absent menstrual periods, anxiety, nervousness, diarrhea, fatigue, heat intolerance, excessive sweating, palpitations, muscle cramps, rapid speech, rapid pulse, weight loss, and neck swelling. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include cold intolerance, dry hair, dry skin, neck swelling, thyroid gland enlargement, lethargy, low body temperature, constipation, loss of appetite, weakness, fatigue, and weight gain.

Causes and Risk factors

This condition usually occurs when the thyroid gland is not making enough thyroid hormone, so it tries to compensate by growing in size.

In addition to the characteristic lump that occurs with goiter, you may experience difficulty breathing or trouble swallowing, or you may have a cough or sore throat.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Tests may include: thyroid lab tests, thyroid ultrasound if a mass is present, thyroid scan and/or a CT scan.

In mild cases of goiter, you may have a small lump, which may not be accompanied by any other symptoms and therefore may not require treatment. In moderate cases due to iodine deficiency, iodine may be sufficient to treat the problem. In more severe cases, thyroid hormones, radioactive iodine, or surgery may be necessary to treat the goiter. ...

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