A goiter is an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. Although goiters are usually painless, a large goiter can cause a cough and make it difficult for you to swallow or breathe.
Normally, our thyroid gland is located in front of the neck just below the area of the Adam’s apple. This butterfly-shaped gland plays a critical role in regulating the metabolic processes of the body by producing thyroid hormone. Heart rate, blood pressure, growth, and breathing are examples of the many processes that depend upon thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland. When the gland becomes enlarged due to diseases or tumors, the gland is referred to as a goiter.
A goiter can develop as a result of numerous different conditions. It can be associated with over-function of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism, or excessive thyroid hormones) or with under-function of the gland (hypothyroidism, or inadequate levels of thyroid hormones). Also, some goiters are associated with normal levels of thyroid hormones. Both inflammation and tumors can cause thyroid enlargement. Sometimes, the entire gland may be enlarged in a symmetrical pattern, while in other goiters, nodules, or enlargement may develop in one part of the gland only.
According to research, there are different kinds of goiters:
- Persons over age 40
- People with a family history of goiter
Other than having an enlarged thyroid gland, the size can sometimes put pressure on the windpipe (trachea) and food tube (esophagus). This can lead to:
- Breathing difficulties (with very large goiters), especially when lying on the back
- Swallowing difficulties, especially with solid food
And by the time, you experienced the symptoms, then you need to seek treatment. Treatments for an enlarged thyroid include:
- Thyroid hormone replacement pills, if the goiter is due to an underactive thyroid
- Small doses of Lugol’s iodine or potassium iodine solution if the goiter is due to a lack of iodine
- Radioactive iodine to shrink the gland, especially if the thyroid is producing too much thyroid hormone
- Surgery (thyroidectomy) to remove all or part of the gland
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