Thyroid gland is found at the base of your neck having butterfly like shape. It is placed below the Adam’s apple in front of the neck. Goiter is the name given for enlarged thyroid. A goiter is normally harmless but sometimes if the size of thyroid gland becomes too big it can cause breathing problems and difficulty in swallowing/drinking.
Enlarged thyroid can be mild or severe and accordingly treatment is done. Iodine insufficiency is the major cause of enlarged thyroid. For some people thyroid gland gets swollen and even small lumps can develop inside it. Two types of hormone T3 and T4 are secreted from the thyroid glands which are needed for body metabolism and right function.
Enlargement of thyroid gland can occur in two ways :
- In the first type (diffused goiter) the entire thyroid gland becomes big in size.
- In the second time (nodular goiter) small lumps are formed in the gland.
Even when the thyroid gland gets enlarged still it can carry out its normal activities namely secretion of hormones. But sometime it will produce too much of hormones (hyperthyroidism) or very little hormone (hypothyroidism).
Thyroid gland gets enlarged due to many factors given below:-
Deficiency of Iodine : Iodine is richly found in seawater/salt. In some countries people are still getting enlarged thyroid due to iodine deficiency. Nowadays iodine is added in table salt so that the body can get good supply of iodine easily.
Grave’s Disease : Enlargement of gland occurs due to autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system will attack thyroid gland. This in turn will produce too much of thyroid hormone leading to swelling of gland.
Hashimoto Disease : Here the thyroid gland becomes underactive producing less or almost no hormone.
Enlargement of thyroid gland occurs due to multi nodular goiter, solitary nodule, thyroid cancer and inflammation of glands.
Enlarged thyroid can produce some of the symptoms like visible swelling in the neck portion, stiffness in the throat region, coughing, difficulty in eating/drinking and hoarseness in your voice.
Who are at risk?
Enlarged thyroid can occur to all people irrespective of their age. Individuals who are not taking enough iodine, aged persons, pregnant women, women in the menopause, intake of certain medications like antiretroviral and exposure to radiation are prone to develop enlarged thyroid gland. In general, women are more prone to get goiter than men. Most of the time, enlarged thyroid will not cause any problem. But in rare cases, it can lead to fatigue, weight gain and insomnia.
Physical examination is enough for detecting enlarged thyroid. But your doctor may order for hormone test T3 and T4 for checking its level. Ultrasonogram test and thyroid scan test is done for getting clear picture of the gland. In rare cases biopsy is done for checking the tissue sample of the gland.
The method of treatment varies with the size of enlargement and on the intensity of the symptoms. For small sized goiter no treatment is required. Medications like levothyroxine are given for hypothyroidism. This will eventually reduce the size of the gland producing right amounts of hormone.
Surgery is done if the person has large sized lump in the gland which causes difficulty in eating and breathing. To remove cancerous growth from thyroid gland surgery is the only option. The patient will have to continue using levothyroxine even after surgery to control the secretions. Radioactive iodine is given orally to manage the size of thyroid gland. It will subsequently reduce the size of goiter and sometimes it can reduce the production of hormone also.
Lifestyle Changes :
In case you have developed enlarged thyroid due to deficiency of iodine, you can take iodized salt in your daily diet. Include seafood like sushi and shrimp regularly.