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Goiter

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Definition

An enlargement of the thyroid gland is called goiter.

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Types

  • Simple goiter
    • Endemic (colloid) goiter
    • Sporadic (nontoxic) goiter
  • Nodular goiter
    • Solitary nodule
    • Multi-nodular goiter
  • Diffuse goiter

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Causes

  • Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism or Grave's disease). Auto-antibodies attack the thyroid gland and stimulate it to over produce the thyroid hormone called thyroxine.
  • Thyroiditis due to viral inflammation damages the capability of thyroid tissue to produce enough hormone to meet the body's requirements. The thyroid gland enlarges to compensate for the deficiency and over stimulation by the pituitary gland.
  • Depletion of iodine in drinking water or soil.
  • Pregnancy
  • Medications e.g. lithium or aminoglutethimide.
  • Hereditary or familial goiter

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Symptoms

  • Lump or swelling in the neck, ranging from single small nodule to massive enlargement.
  • Pain in the neck area.
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Difficulty swallowing due to compression of the esophagus
  • Distension or engorgement of the neck veins

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Implications

Thyroid malignancy may present as progressive enlargement or the development of a hard nodule in the thyroid gland.
A simple goiter may slowly progress to a toxic nodular goiter or hypothyroidism may eventually result after treatment.

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What You Can Do

  • Medications
    • Levothyroxine (Levothroid, Synthroid) may slow the progression of the goiter in case of hypothyroidism.
    • Radioactive iodine taken orally can shrink the thyroid gland by destroying the cells.
    • Small doses of iodine as potassium iodine or iodized table salt may help when the goiter is due to iodine deficiency.
  • General Measures
    • Get enough rest
    • Eat a well balanced and nutritious diet.
    • Vitamin B complex, folic acid and vitamin C boost your immune system
  • Surgery
    • Surgical removal of part or most of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) can help relieve symptoms of breathing and swallowing difficulty.
    • Thyroidectomy is also a treatment of choice for thyroid cancer.
  • Prevention
    • The use of iodized table salt prevents endemic (colloid) goiter due to iodine deficiency.

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Goiter