What Is Goitre?

The thyroid gland is butterfly shaped, and situated at the base of the neck, beneath the Adam's apple. Occasionally, the gland may grow bigger than normal, resulting in Goitre.

Goitres are usually painless, but, a large Goitre may cause coughing and difficulty in swallowing or breathing.

The commonest cause for Goitre, worldwide, is a deficiency of iodine in the diet. An over-functioning or under-functioning gland also causes Goitre. The treatment depends up on the size of the Goitre, the clinical manifestations and the causative factor.

Causes of Goitre

The following are the most significant causes of Goitre:

Iodine deficiency: is the primary cause for Goitre. Those who are deficient in the mineral, develop Goitre, because, the gland enlarges in order to get hold of more iodine. Also, foods, like, broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower affect the quantity of iodine that is absorbed, thereby, triggering Goitre too.

Graves' disease: graves disease is an auto immune disease that causes hyperthyroidism or increased production of the thyroid hormone. In Graves' disease, anti-bodies that are manufactured by the immune system wrongly attack the thyroid, and make the gland release more of the hormone thyroxine / T4. This over-stimulation causes the gland to enlarge.

Hashimoto's disease: Hashimoto's disease is also an autoimmune disorder, which causes hypothyroidism. The condition damages the gland such that it manufactures very little thyroid hormones. Low levels of T3 and T4 make the pituitary release larger amounts of TSH to arouse the thyroid, which in turn makes the gland swell.

Nodules: single nodules or multiple nodules in the thyroid are also important causes for the formation of Goitre. A majority of the nodules are benign and do not turn malignant.

Thyroid cancer: causes an enlargement of the gland.

Pregnancy: HCG produced during pregnancy causes the thyroid to increase in size.

Inflammation: thyroiditis or inflammation of the thyroid causes swelling and pain.

Sex: women are more vulnerable to Goitre than men.

Age: the risk of Goitre increases with age.

Medical history: a personal history or family history of a thyroid disorder or auto-immune disease raises the risk too.

Drugs: certain medications / drugs, like, amiodaranoe, immunosuppressants, anti-retrovirals, etc., increase ones risk of developing Goitre.

Radiation exposure: radiation treatment to the neck or chest or exposure to radiation in a nuclear facility, test or accident increases the risk appreciably.

Symptoms of Goitre

A perceptible swelling in the neck.
Constriction in the throat
Cough and hoarseness
Difficulty in breathing and / or swallowing

Treatment of Goitre

On the basis of the diagnosis and the hormone profile, your doctor will decide the treatment plan that will be most optimal for you. A combination of medications, dietary prescriptions and lifestyle changes will help manage Goitre successfully and prevent recurrences.

Medications: the endocrinologist will prescribe drugs to manage hypothyroidism as well as hyperthyroidism. Medications may also be needed in cases of thyroiditis or inflammation of the gland. The dose of the medicine needs to be adjusted on and off to maintain a normal thyroid profile.

Surgery: surgery is advocated in cases of huge Goitres and in cases of thyroid malignancies.

Radio-active iodine: radioactive iodine, when administered, reaches the thyroid and destroys the thyroid cells, thus diminishing the size of the gland.

Diet: you must make sure that you get an adequate amount of iodine; use iodized salt and consume plenty of foods that are a rich source of iodine. Excellent food sources are: sea food, kelp, dulse, shrimp, shell fish, tomatoes, strawberries, celery and oats.

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