The thyroid gland, one of the endocrine glands, is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the frontal portion of the neck. The hormones secreted by the gland regulate growth, metabolism, sexual development, and many other important functions of our body. Thyroxine, triiodothyronine and calcitonin are the three hormones secreted by the thyroid gland. These hormones travel through the blood and reach the body cells. Oversecretion or undersecretion of these hormones leads to thyroid diseases.
Causes of Enlarged Thyroid Gland
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland secretes excessive thyroid hormones, while hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by undersecretion of thyroid hormones. Many of the thyroid diseases result in an enlarged thyroid gland. Enlargement of the thyroid gland can be easily noticed, and is referred to as goiter. The diseases that cause goiter are given below, along with their respective symptoms.
It is an autoimmune disease, which is also called diffuse toxic goiter, and is the most common cause of an enlarged thyroid gland. Autoimmune disorders are those conditions wherein the immune system of the body works against the healthy tissues and cells of the body. Graves' disease creates abnormal antibodies in the body that stimulate the thyroid gland to oversecrete thyroid hormones. This results in the enlargement of the thyroid gland, causing goiter. Here are the other symptoms of Graves' Disease, a type of hyperthyroidism.
- Graves' ophthalmopathy
- Rapid heart rate
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Muscle degeneration
- Heat intolerance
- Thinning of hair
- Redness of the skin
- Brittle nails
Thyroiditis refers to the inflammation of the thyroid gland. There are various forms of the disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common.
Hashimoto's disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder and is a common cause of hypothyroidism in teenagers. The immune system of the body attacks the thyroid gland and prevents it from producing required amounts of thyroid hormones. This leads to inflammation of the thyroid, causing enlargement of the thyroid gland. Here are the symptoms of thyroiditis.
- Weight gain
- Dryness of skin
- Swelling of the legs
- Swelling around the eyes
- Muscle weakness
- Thyrotoxicosis (leakage of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream)
Solitary thyroid nodules developed on the thyroid lobes can result in enlargement of the thyroid gland. These nodules are benign in many cases and do not develop into cancer. Here are the symptoms.
- Hoarseness of voice
- Shortness of breath
Iodine is a very important nutrient required for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. This is the reason iodine is added to the salt we use for cooking. Deficiency of iodine leads to over-stimulation of the thyroid gland and this leads to formation of goiter. Given below are the symptoms of iodine deficiency in the body.
- Extreme fatigue
- Weight gain
- Low basal body temperature
Symptoms of thyroid gland disorders, including an enlarged thyroid gland, can be reduced with proper treatment. There are various causes, and hence, proper diagnosis is necessary.