A Goiter is an irregular growth of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a gland located under the Adam’s apple in a winged-like wrapping around your neck.
Most people with Goiters won’t develop any symptoms outside of swelling around the neck. However, Goiters can cause specific symptoms depending on if it causes a decrease or increase in thyroid function.
Hypothyroidism – Decrease in Thyroid function
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Muscle weakness
- Problems with attention or concentration
Hyperthyroidism – Increase in Thyroid function
- Weight loss
- Rabid Heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Excess sweating
- Twitchiness or Irritability
- High blood pressure
Diagnosis and Treatment
Goiters are often discovered during a routine physical exam. Your doctor might discover a growth or swelling around your neck and perform further imaging tests. These are performed in order to get a better idea of the size of nodules, assess whether you are suffering from hypo or hyperthyroidism, and determine the cause of the goiter.
These tests include:
- Hormone Test – Your doctor will perform a blood test in order to test your thyroid hormone levels and see if your thyroid is performing properly
- Antibody Test – Depending on your blood work, your doctor may perform an antibody test in order to rule out Hashimoto’s or Graves disease, a thyroid condition linked to an autoimmune disorder
- Ultrasound of the thyroid – A ultrasound uses sound waves in order to create an image of your thyroid, which helps your doctor reveal the size of the thyroid and nodules affecting the thyroid
- Radioactive iodine uptake test – Your doctor may prescribe this test in order to understand your thyroid function. They will inject you with a small amount of radioactive iodine and scan your thyroid gland in order to see how your thyroid absorbs it
- Biopsy – Your doctor may perform a microscopic biopsy of your neck tissue cells in order to rule out the possibility of a cancerous growth causing your condition
Depending on the size of the goiter, severity of symptoms, and causes of the goiter, your doctor may perform any of these treatment options.
- Watchful waiting – In most cases, goiters are small, noncancerous, and have little chance of growing. In these cases, your doctor may advise no treatment but will prescribe a careful observation schedule with regularly timed testing intervals. If the thyroid has caused new growth or causing new symptoms report it to your doctor immediately
- Medications – Underactive thyroids (Hypothyroidism) will often be treated with hormone supplements like levothyroxine (Levoxyl), while overactive thyroids (Hyperthyroidism) will be treated with drugs like methimazole (Tapazole) which may reduce the size of the goiter.
- Surgery – If a goiter is affecting your ability to breath or swallow, or is connected with thyroid cancer, you may need surgery in the form of a total or partial thyroidectomy. If surgery is performed, you will often need to take regular hormone supplements in order to replace the hormones your thyroid would usually produce
However, in most cases, goiters do not need treatments and can be managed with aspirin and a healthy diet that rich in iodine which includes:
- Saltwater fish such as salmon and tuna
- Soy and dairy products
If you have any concerns regarding your thyroid, speak to a medical professional today.