A goiter is a medical condition in which there is swelling in the area of the thyroid gland that causes a lump on the front of the neck. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone which functions to regulate chemical processes released from the immune system.
The thyroid gland is a small gland in the neck that looks like a butterfly. Its location is right in front of the windpipe. In men, it is located directly below the Adam’s apple.
The thyroid gland is not be visible from the neck’s surface. However, when the thyroid gland swells, a lump will appear. When the throat is swallowing food or saliva, the lump will move from top to bottom.
Causes of Goiter
When a person has goiter, their thyroid gland is producing either too much or too little thyroid hormones. Sometimes, goiter can also occur due to other diseases.
The following are possible causes or triggers for a goiter:
- Thyroid cancer.
- Iodine deficiency during diet.
- Inflamed thyroid gland or also known as thyroiditis.
- Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
- Overactive thyroid gland. This condition is also called hyperthyroidism.
- Radiation treatment to the neck or chest area, such as radiotherapy for neck cancer.
- The thyroid gland is too passive and can’t work properly. This condition is called hypothyroidism.
- Consumption of certain medications, such as lithium, a drug used to control mental illness.
Goiter can happen to anyone. However, goiters have increased potential to develop as you get older. Furthermore, it is believed that goiters are more commonly occurring in women than men.
When to See a Doctor for Goiter?
A person with symptoms of goiter can consult an endocrine specialist (endocrinologist). This specialist doctor specializes in treating patients with endocrine disorders, which include the glands and organs that produce hormones in the body.
To ensure the patient is indeed experiencing symptoms of a goiter, the doctor will feel the patient’s neck and request for the patient to swallow.
The doctor may also ask the patient to undergo blood tests such as a thyroid function test.
When undergoing a thyroid function test, a sample of the patient’s blood will be measured to examine:
- Tirotropin or thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), a hormone that functions to maintain the growth and development of the thyroid gland.
- Triiodotironina or thyroxine, a hormone whose main function is to regulate the body’s metabolism.
If the levels of the two hormones above are considered too high or too low, the patient may have thyroid problems or may potentially have to deal with thyroid problems in the future.
It is advised to immediately consult a doctor if the symptoms of goiter cause dizziness, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, or a goiter lump. The goiter lump may press on other organs in the body around the neck area, such as the esophagus, throat, and other nerves.
Symptoms of Goiter
The first symptom of a goiter is a lump in the neck. The size of this lump varies from patient to patient. In people with small goiter lumps, the goiter condition may not be noticed until it gets bigger and starts to affect the growth of the thyroid hormone.
Generally, the symptoms of goiter that occur in most patients are:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Higher voice pitch
- Symptoms in the throat such as hoarseness, sore throat, and coughing
In more severe cases, goiter symptoms may include:
- Change in voice.
- A feeling of tightness in the throat.
- Shortness of breath, a sound occurs when you breathe.
In some cases, goiter can also be caused due to other medical conditions or disorders in the body. In such instances, other symptoms may appear which vary from person to person. Some of these symptoms include:
- Hair loss.
- Heart beat.
- Excessive appetite.
- Weight loss
Treatment for Goiter
The treatment of goiter varies from patient to patient. In the case of mild goiters, especially if the lump is not too large and there are no problems with thyroid hormone levels, the doctor will let the goiter heal on its own.
Goiter treatment depends on:
- The size of the goiter.
- Symptoms experienced.
- Other causes of thyroid conditions.
Acute goiter symptoms may interfere with the respiratory process. This will be treated with surgery. This surgery is called a thyroidectomy, which is the surgical procedure to remove part of or the entire thyroid gland.
If the doctor detects that the patient’s goiter is caused by a disorder or problem with the thyroid gland, the doctor may recommend treatments such as:
- Provide thioamides medicines or recommend radiotherapy for problems with an overactive thyroid gland.
- Provide additional synthetic hormones called levothyroxine for thyroid gland problems that are too passive.
During thyroidectomy, the patient will be under anaesthesia.
The surgery is performed by making a small incision in the front of the neck to see the thyroid gland. If the doctor observe that only part of the thyroid gland is causing the goiter, only part of the thyroid gland will be removed.
Thyroid gland removal will reduce the symptoms of goiter as well as the production of thyroid hormones. To overcome this, doctors will advise patients to undergo hormone therapy after surgery.
Treatment Cost for Goiter
The cost for Goiter treatment varies, depending on the symptoms and causes found in the patient.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of Goiter treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Goiter
One of the factors that cause goiter is iodine deficiency. For that, patients can ensure adequate iodine levels in the body.
Iodine is a chemical element that plays a vital role in supporting thyroid hormone production. Increasing iodine in the body can be done by consuming foods with high iodine content.
Foods that contain iodine include:
- Fish and other seafood.
- Certain vegetables and fruits.
Using iodine salt can also help increase iodine levels in the body.
Goiter may also be triggered by other health problems. That is why maintaining a healthy body helps prevent yourself from contracting goiter disease. You can achieve better health by maintaining a balanced diet and doing regular exercise.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Goiter
For mild goiter cases, the doctor will allow the patient’s goiter symptoms to resolve on their own. Patients will not be asked to undergo special treatment procedures, including surgery.
If the doctor prescribes certain medications for you to consume, be sure to adhere to what your doctor recommends.