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Goiter Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

The condition of goiter can be toxic or non-toxic, depending on whether the enlargement of the thyroid gland is simultaneous with the increased secretion of thyroid hormone. Perhaps the most common sign of goiter is the swelling of the neck, which results in the compression of the windpipe and esophagus.

Goiter SymptomsPHOTO BY FLICKR.COM/EDITOR/

Goiter Symptoms and Classifications

Goiter symptoms can be as simple as difficulty in breathing or swallowing, coughing, dizziness or hoarseness of the voice. More serious symptoms that might need medical attention include protruding eyes, unexplained weight loss, heat intolerance and perspiration - all of which are symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Patients manifesting more complicated goiter symptoms may also experience characteristics of hypothyroidism such as unexplained weight gain, weakness and depression. Symptoms of thyrotoxicosis may also arise, including palpitations and hyperactivity. Goiters are classified either by growth patterns such as uninodular, multinodular and diffuse or by size or class. Class I and II differ by visibility depending on posture, while class III goiter is defined by compression marks caused by extreme pressure in the neck.

Goiter Causes and Evaluation

Women are more prone to goiter and can be acquired whether or not a person has thyroid problems. Goiter causes can be genetic, in which case a patient may have inherited an underactive thyroid gland that impairs the release of thyroid hormone into the bloodstream. This condition is known as hypothyroidism. Iodine deficiency can also account for goiter causes, although such cases have declined because of the availability of iodine in today’s common diet. Goiter can also develop from autoimmune diseases or conditions in which the overproduction of cytokines triggers thyroid growth. This inflammation is evaluated by simply feeling the thyroid, or conducting more sophisticated tests including blood tests, thyroid scans or ultrasound.

Goiter Treatment and Medication

Small and stagnant goiters may not need treatment. Goiter treatment would only be required when the size of the lump is visibly unpleasant, already impeding the functions of parts of the neck, or when it is growing fast enough to raise concern about future complications. Medications range from iodine pills for iodine-deficient goiter, to thyroid hormone replacement drugs for autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto thyroiditis. The next stage of goiter treatment is surgical procedures, including pituitary surgery to slow down production of thyroid-stimulating hormone, procedures involving radioiodine, and subtotal thyroidectomy, which involves the extraction of most of the thyroid gland.

Written by Lucy King

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