A goiter is a bulging overgrowth of the thyroid gland located at the base of the throat just above the collar bone. The thyroid controls growth, development and elements of metabolic processes. A goiter can change the level of hormones the thyroid produces. In this blog, you will learn the symptoms and treatment options for goiters and how your primary care provider can help you live well after a goiter diagnosis.
When most people think of a goiter, they likely imagine a sizable bulge protruding from the front of the throat. While this swelling is characteristic of most goiters, goiters also may be composed of multiple nodules or bumps within this important endocrine gland.
Most of these nodules are benign; however, your primary care provider may wish to biopsy these structures if they suspect cancer may be present.
Additionally, the symptoms of goiter may include:
- Shortness of breath due to compression of the trachea, or windpipe
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) due to compression of the esophagus, or food pipe
- Hoarse voice
- Bulging of veins in the neck
Besides these obvious physical signs and symptoms, goiters also can change the blood levels of thyroid hormones, such as:
- TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone
- T-3, or triiodothyronine
- T-4, or thyroxine
However, some people who have goiters have no symptoms of thyroid disease whatsoever. When someone does have too little or too much thyroid hormone because of a goiter, he or she may experience the symptoms of underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, hair loss, constipation and very dry skin. A hyperactive thyroid causes weight loss, nervousness, problems with sleeping, and menstrual and appetite changes. Extreme symptoms which impact day to day function require treatment by an endocrinologist or primary care provider who has experience in dealing with metabolic disorders, such as Graves and Hashimoto’s disease, thyroid conditions which are linked to problems within a person’s immune system.
Additionally, lack of sufficient iodine in the diet can lead to goiters and nodules. Finally, if you are a woman, are over 40 years of age or take certain medications, such as lithium, you may develop a goiter. Viral infections and simple inflammation of the thyroid gland may play a role in some individuals as well.
While many goiters are totally asymptomatic, others are noticeable by both patient and primary care provider. A review of medical history, including a family history of thyroid disease, helps in diagnosing the reasons behind symptoms. Your primary care provider may recommend the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:
- Ultrasound imaging
- Radioactive iodine uptake scan
- Blood tests to reveal thyroid hormone levels and/or antibodies related to autoimmune thyroid disorders
As with all endocrine disorders, treatment for a goiter is highly individualized. You and your healthcare provider will discuss your options. Common treatments are:
- Hormone replacement (oral medication)
- Radioactive iodine therapy (also administered orally)
- Surgery to reduce the size of the thyroid gland or even to remove it completely
- Biopsy of nodules
- Watchful waiting, or observing any changes experienced in bodily symptoms and goiter size
- Use of medications which reduce inflammation
Also, your primary care provider will discuss your diet and nutrition habits to ensure you are getting sufficient iodine. Foods which contain iodine are:
- Iodized table salt
- Soy and dairy products
At Diabetes & Wellness Center in Oviedo, FL, our founder is family nurse practitioner Adriel Perez. He has specialized experience and training in endocrine disorders, such as diabetes, obesity and goiters. He is known for his patient-centered care which uses the latest scientific research combined with patient input to arrive at care plans which optimize overall health and wellness.
To learn more about thyroid function and disorders, such as goiter, call Diabetes & Wellness Center at (407) 890-1876, or request your appointment here. Our team is very friendly and will be happy to answer all your questions and concerns.