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You notice that your co-worker at the office seems to have a swelling on their throat. Every day it seems to be increasing. You gather up some nerve and ask them what it is. They tell you that they are suffering from a diseases known as goiter. Not understanding what that really is and too embarrassed to question about it, you decide to search the internet about what goiter is.
Rest assured, unlike flu and small pox, goiter is not spreadable through contact of any kind. Maybe you, or someone you know are suffering from goiter? Here is all the information about what goiters are, what causes it, what are the symptoms, and how you can avoid them.
What is a Goiter and How Does it Occur?
Basically, when your thyroid gland becomes enlarged, it is known as a goiter. Your thyroid gland lies in the front of the neck, just above your collarbone or below the Adam’s apple. It is a butterfly shaped organ that is responsible for the production of thyroid hormone which controls the metabolism of the body. It also deals with the heart rate, blood pressure, growth and breathing processes as well.
Goiter itself cannot technically be called a disease, but when it occurs, meaning when the thyroid gland becomes enlarged it is generally the result of some underlying disease. Goiter mostly occurs either because of under functioning or over functioning thyroid gland. Under functioning thyroid gland or hypothyroidism occurs when the gland is unable to produce enough amount of the thyroid hormone. Over functioning thyroid or hyperthyroidism is when excessive amounts of hormones are being created and secreted.
Another rare cause of goiter is when the pituitary gland releases hormones that cause the thyroid gland to grow in size so as to facilitate the production of thyroid hormone. But this condition happens to only 1 in a thousand cases of women who are diagnosed with goiter.
Autoimmune diseases are the major cause of goiter in developed countries like North America. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is when the immune system of a person starts attacking tissues of its own body and leads to inflammation of the thyroid gland. Hence goiter results.
Some other very rare causes of goiter can be excessive smoking, hormonal changes when pregnancy, puberty or menopause takes place, the use of psychiatric drug lithium, radiation therapy like in the treatment of cancer or even over consumption of iodine.
Types of Goiter
There are different types of goiter that can take place. If the entire gland becomes enlarged, then that is known as Graves’ Disease.
Considered to be one of the most commonly occurring kind of thyroid issue, Graves’ disease was discovered in the early 19th century by Sir Robert Grave’, hence its name. It is the main cause of this hyperthyroidism where excessive thyroid hormone is produced and secreted.
Good news is, when it is diagnosed by your medical doctor, it can be treated quickly. If dealt with in time, the disease either completely disappears or goes in remission. But if left undiagnosed and treated for a long time, it could cause many disease and even become fatal. The disease itself causes discomfort but does not leave any adverse reactions once treated.
Toxic Nodular Goiter
This kind of Goiter is more serious, as it occurs because of adenomas or more than one nodules. This too leads to excessive production of the thyroid hormone. Keep in mind though that the severity of a Goiter can be different among each person. While some can be very minor that go away on its own, others need to be properly diagnosed and treated.
This is a type of goiter that takes place when the diet intake comprises of food items that lead to thyroid related issues like rutabagas, soybeans, peaches, spinach, cabbage and peanuts. The reason why these foods cause goiter is that they inhibit the production of thyroid hormone as thyroid finds it impossible to process iodide. This is the reason why iodine was added to salts, because in the 1920’s, lack of iodine was leading to many cases of goiter.
So how do you know, other than the swelling of the neck that you may be suffering from goiter? Here are some clear signs and symptoms:
- Swelling of the front of the neck or throat
- Tightness of throat, hoarseness or even cough
- Breathing difficulties
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Palpitations or hyperactivity
- Weight loss and hair loss
- Personality or mood changes
- Cold intolerance
When the case of goiter is mild there are little to no symptoms. In this case the thyroid gland heals itself and no medical treatment is needed. But if these symptoms are visible, getting a physical exam along with blood tests for thyroid become necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Medical Treatment Options
Once goiter has been diagnosed, your medical doctor will try to discern the underlying cause of why the condition took place. Is it because of under or over functioning thyroid?
As soon as that has been discovered, a suitable medical treatment is prescribed. Depending on the severity and type of goiter either medication or surgery is suggested. Sometimes the doctor only monitors the thyroid condition and at other times radioactive iodine procedure is recommended.
It is essential that if you or someone you know is suffering from goiter, then they get to their medical doctor immediately. Yes, simple goiters may not need any particular treatment, as they go away on their own. But toxic nodular goiters if left for too long can become fatal. This is the reason they must be sorted out as soon as possible. Also remember that goiter can be the face of some other serious conditions. This asserts the fact that it is not something that should be taken lightly, but must be diagnosed and treated immediately by your medical doctor or endocrinologist..