Goiter Symptoms

Goiter refers to an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. This Buzzle write-up provides information on the contributing factors and symptoms for goiter.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located in the base of the neck. It is an endocrine gland that produces thyroid hormones that are required for several processes that are essential for the healthy functioning of the human body. Thyroid hormones help regulate the heart rate, body temperature, metabolism, growth, and development. The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland also play a vital role in the production and secretion of the thyroid hormones. Goiter is a condition that is characterized by the enlargement of the thyroid gland due to the malfunctioning of the thyroid gland. There are several reasons that could lead to goiter.

Contributing Factors

Goiter is categorized into simple goiter, toxic goiter, and nontoxic goiter. Simple goiter is further classified into colloid goiter and sporadic goiter. Colloid goiter is basically a result of iodine deficiency in the diet, while the causes of sporadic goiter are not yet clear. Hypothyroidism (inadequate production of thyroid hormones) and hyperthyroidism (excessive production of thyroid hormones) are thyroid problems that could lead to the development of goiter. The underlying causes of goiter are provided below.

Iodine Deficiency
Iodine is an essential mineral that helps to stimulate the production of thyroid hormones. Deficiency of iodine leads to hypothyroidism. Iodine is prominently found in seawater and fish. People who live at high altitudes could develop goiter due to the lack of iodine in the diet.

Hashimoto's Disease
Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder where the thyroid gland is unable to produce sufficient amount of thyroid hormones. It is the pituitary gland that produces the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which in turn stimulates the production of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland. In Hashimoto's disease, the pituitary gland detects the low level of thyroid hormone, which is why it increases the production of TSH. This causes the thyroid gland to swell, thereby leading to goiter.

Grave's Disease
Grave's disease is also an autoimmune disorder that causes the thyroid gland to swell. The thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones in case of individuals affected by Grave's disease. Normally, the antibodies produced in our body help to attack foreign bodies. However, in people affected by this autoimmune disorder, antibodies attack the thyroid gland. This leads to the excessive production of thyroid hormones, which in turn leads to goiter.

Other causes of goiter include thyroid cancer, thyroiditis, multi-nodular goiter, pregnancy, etc.

Symptoms of Goiter

Swelling at the base of the neck is one of the most common signs of goiter. But not every person who has goiter develops the typical symptoms of goiter. Given below is a list of some of the signs and symptoms of goiter that might be experienced by the affected individual:

Swelling in front of neck, below Adam's apple
Difficulty in breathing
Hoarse voice
Difficulty in swallowing
Cough
Neck tightness
Wheezing

Treatment

The treatment for goiter depends on a number of factors, which include the extent of the swelling, underlying cause, and the other symptoms accompanied by goiter. Various diagnostic tests such as blood test to check the levels of thyroid hormones, ultrasonography, thyroid scan, etc., are performed to diagnose the underlying cause. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, suitable treatment options are recommended. If the goiter has developed due to hypothyroidism, then synthetic thyroid hormones are prescribed. The patient may be treated with radioactive iodine to reduce the size of the inflamed thyroid gland. In extreme cases, a surgery might be recommended.

If the symptoms of goiter persist for a long period, then it may cause severe complications. Thus, medical assistance must be sought by anyone who experiences the aforementioned symptoms of goiter.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.
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