To put it simply, a goiter is an enlargement of your thyroid gland.
Goiters can form when your thyroid gland produces either too much or too little thyroid hormone.
Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone and hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland makes too little.Your thyroid gland is an endocrine gland located in the lower front of the neck, below your Adam’s apple. The function of your thyroid gland is to supply your blood with thyroid hormone which your body uses as energy, it also helps to regulate your digestion, metabolism, heart rate, respiration, and even your mood.
When your thyroid increases in size it is called a goiter. This can sometimes affect the way your thyroid works but it can also occur with normal production of thyroid hormone.
Goiters can develop in both men and women but they are more common in women.
The primary symptom of a goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland which causes a visible lump on your neck. The size of the lump can range from small to very large.
If the goiter becomes too large it can cause difficulty breathing and trouble swallowing – but this is rare.
What Causes a Goiter?
There are a handful of conditions and disorders that can cause goiters. Most commonly Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s disease, inflammation of the thyroid, solid or fluid-containing cysts or nodules on your thyroid, thyroid cancer, and pregnancy.
If you have Graves’ disease your thyroid produces more thyroid hormone than normal which causes your thyroid to increase in size.
With Hashimoto’s disease, your thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. This kicks your pituitary gland into high gear producing more thyroid-stimulating hormone which causes your thyroid to become swollen.
Before the 1920’s, low iodine used to be the primary cause of goiters in the U.S. But this is no longer true since the invention of iodized salt.
Treatments for Goiters
There are several treatments for goiters which include thyroid hormone replacement medication, radioactive iodine, surgery or simply reducing or increasing your intake of iodine at home.
If you suspect you have a goiter you should find an endocrinologist a doctor who is specialized in diagnosing and treating hormone imbalances to help you restore the normal balance of hormones. Your endocrinologist can run blood tests, a thyroid scan, ultrasound or take a biopsy to help diagnose and determine the best course of action.
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