Your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ situated in the lower part of the neck. It is an important gland in the body because it produces two important hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These hormones perform crucial functions like controlling the blood circulation and regulating metabolism levels, which are essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A goitre occurs when these hormones are produced below or above the required amount, which can result in the enlargement of the thyroid gland.
What causes goitre?
Goitres occur due to an inflammation of the thyroid gland or when it produces too much or too little of the thyroid hormone. However, they can also form due to various other reasons such as infections, thyroid cancer or a lack of iodine in the food consumed. Some of the major causes of a goitre are as follows.
- Graves disease- This disease is the most common cause of goitre and is the main reason for hyperthyroidism in women. Graves disease occurs when the immune system gets mixed signals and attacks a part of the thyroid gland, causing it to produce too much of the thyroid hormone. Graves disease can also cause swelling around the eyes.
- Colloid goitre- This type of goitre usually forms during puberty and can cause the thyroid gland to become abnormally large. However, since the goitre is the result of a hormonal imbalance, it usually subsides over time and does not require treatment.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis- Hashimoto’s thyroid occurs when the immune system gets mixed signals and attacks the thyroid gland. This can result in a large thyroid gland that will continue to grow over time and in more serious situations, it can stop the production of the hormone completely.
What are the symptoms of thyroid goitre?
Goitre also known as thyromegaly is quite easy to spot since it is in front of the neck. Not all goitres have symptoms but when they do, it can include the following:
- Difficulty swallowing
A goitre is often easy to spot because it moves up and down when a person swallows. Therefore, if you have an enlarged thyroid gland, you may find it difficult to swallow and can have the feeling of something stuck in your throat, especially when you lie down.
Since the goitre is an enlargement of the thyroid gland, it can result in a visible swelling at the base of the neck. This swelling is more obvious when you swallow food, wear makeup or shave.
- Pressure on the windpipe
The thyroid gland is located in the lower part of the neck, at the tip of the windpipe. Therefore when this gland enlarges, it can create pressure on the windpipe and oesophagus.
- Difficulty breathing
Since the goitre blocks the windpipe, it can cause difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath, especially at night.
If you have a goitre, you may also experience a hoarse voice.
If you have a lump in your throat or have any of these symptoms, it is advisable to visit the doctor immediately. There are different treatments that can be prescribed for goitre.
How is goitre treated?
The treatment prescribed for goitre can vary depending on the severity of the condition. In some cases, if you have a goitre but no other visible symptoms of thyroid, the doctor will recommend that you monitor the goitre without treatment. However, in more serious cases, a few possible treatments include:
- Radioactive iodine
If you have an overactive thyroid gland or hyperthyroidism, one method of treatment is radioactive iodine. This pill reaches the thyroid gland through the bloodstream and kills the thyroid cells, which reduces the size of the goitre. But this treatment can also kill too many thyroid cells, which can result in an underactive thyroid gland.
One of the main causes for goitre is iodine deficiency as the thyroid gland tries to store as many iodine particles as possible. In this case, it is best to increase your intake of iodine-rich foods. The recommended Iodine intake is 150 mg per day, and it is commonly found in yogurt and potatoes. Most commercially-available salt in the market today is fortified with iodine. You can also take an iodine supplement to make up for the deficiency.
If the thyroid gland continues to enlarge even after taking medication or the symptoms faced are fatal. You doctor may also recommend surgery to remove part of or the entire thyroid gland.
A goitre can cause discomfort and is quite visible. However, goitres themselves are rarely fatal and in most cases, they only need to be closely monitored. A goitre is also a sign of a thyroid condition; therefore, it is important to consult a doctor immediately if you experience difficulty swallowing of find a swelling in your throat. An effective way to ensure that you don’t have any underlying symptoms of thyroid deficiency is to get a master health check-up. Neuberg Diagnostics is a world-class diagnostics lab that offers numerous preventive health check-up packages to suit your specific needs.