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 deficiency. Iodine is used in the production of thyroid hormones. When there is not enough iodine available to make these hormones, the thyroid gland enlarges.
Causes of sporadic goiter
Sporadic goiter, or nontoxic goiter, may also occur because the thyroid does not produce enough hormones to meet the body’s requirements. In some cases of sporadic goiter, the more precise cause is not known, but it may be linked to:
- Medication side effects (such as side effects from lithium)
- Other diseases or disorders of the thyroid
Other causes of enlarged thyroid
An enlarged thyroid gland can also result from inflammatory conditions of the thyroid gland and tumors that develop in the gland. This article focuses on simple goiter, a noncancerous enlargement of the gland.
What are the risk factors for goiter?
A number of factors increase the risk of developing goiter. Not all people with risk factors will develop goiter. Risk factors for goiter include:
- Age greater than 40 years
- Diet low in iodine (diet does not include iodized salt)
- Family history of goiter
- Female gender
- History of head and neck irradiation or radiation exposure
- Residence in an area poor in soil iodine, such as Central Asia, the Andes, or Central Africa
Reducing your risk of goiter
While it may not be possible to reduce the risk of sporadic goiter, you may be able to lower your risk of endemic goiter by:
- Eating a balanced diet with sufficient iodine
- Using iodized table salt
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 sym... Read more about goiterintroduction
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.
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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.