What is goiter?

Goiter refers to an enlargement of the thyroid gland. This condition usually occurs when the thyroid gland is not making enough thyroid hormone, so it tries to compensate by growing in size. There are two varieties of simple goiter: endemic goiter, which occurs because of iodine deficiency in the diet, and sporadic goiter, which often develops for no known reason. In both cases, the primary symptom is an enlargement of the thyroid gland, a small gland in the front of the neck. While this article focuses on simple goiter, other causes of an enlarged thyroid gland are inflammatory conditions and nodules or tumors.

Endemic goiter is very rare in the United States because of the use of iodized table salt; however, it occurs more frequently in other areas of the world. While the specific causes of sporadic goiter are often not known, they may include genetics and medication side effects.

In addition to the characteristic lump that occurs with goiter, you may experience difficulty breathing or trouble swallowing, or you may have a cough or sore throat. In mild cases of goiter, you may have a small lump, which may not be accompanied by any other symptoms and therefore may not require treatment. In moderate cases due to iodine deficiency, iodine may be sufficient to treat the problem. In more severe cases, thyroid hormones, radioactive iodine, or surgery may be necessary to treat the goiter.

Simple goiters may resolve spontaneously or with the addition of dietary iodine. If a serious goiter goes untreated, however, it may enlarge and begin to interfere with the normal production of thyroid hormones. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can result.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms of goiter, such as difficulty breathing.

Seek prompt medical care for persistent or uncomfortable goiter, as leaving goiter untreated may lead to either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.


What are the symptoms of goiter?

The primary symptom of goiter is a swelling or lump on the front of the neck, which is due to an enlarged thyroid. In mild cases, goiter causes no other symptoms and thyroid function may be normal. In more serious cases, pressure from the goiter can interfere with swallowing, chewing or speaking. Other symptoms of goiter are related to dysfunction of the thyroid and hormone imbalance.
Read more about goitersymptoms


What causes goiter?

A goiter is an increase in the amount of thyroid gland tissue in the neck. It is part of the body’s compensation mechanism for inadequate production of thyroid hormones, which include thyroxine and triiodothyronine. The two types of simple goiter arise from different causes.

Causes of endemic goiter

Endemic goiter, also called colloidal goiter, occurs due to iodine defi... Read more about goitercauses


How is goiter treated?

In many cases, simple goiters will resolve spontaneously. Unless goiter symptoms are problematic, goiter generally does not require treatment. In cases of goiter caused by iodine deficiency, iodine supplements may provide adequate treatment. If goiter symptoms are more serious, however, medical treatment may be required.

Treatment for problematic simple goiter

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Ear, Nose and Throat

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