Enlargement or swelling of the thyroid gland, situated in the neck is called as goitre.
You may have watched several advertisement over the years emphasizing on consuming table salt that is fortified with iodine. Ever wondered why? That’s because worldwide, iodine deficiency affects about two billion people and is the leading preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over 90% cases of goitre are caused by iodine deficiency
The size of a goitre varies from person to person. In most cases, the swelling is small and doesn’t cause any symptoms.
In more severe cases, the symptoms may include:
- A tight feeling in your throat
- Changes to your voice, such as hoarseness
- Difficulty swallowing food and water
- Difficulty breathing – there may be a high-pitched sound when you breathe
Goitre is classified as diffuse or nodular.
- In diffuse goitre the whole thyroid gland swells and its smooth to touch
In nodular goitre, solid or fluid-filled lumps called thyroid nodules develop in the thyroid gland.
- Your Doctor will examine your neck to see whether your thyroid gland is swollen or not.
- A thyroid function test measures the level of thyroid hormones in your blood. It can show whether you have an underactive or overactive thyroid, both of which can be associated with goitre.
What are the Causes of Goitre?
Goitre is outcome of many factors such as:
- Insufficient iodine in the diet due to inadequate intake of iodine-rich foods or high consumption of certain foods that neutralize iodine.
- Thyroiditis like autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto thyroiditis) and painless (postpartum) thyroiditis.
- Having radiation treatment to your neck or chest area
- Drugs such as lithium and phenylbutazone
- Hormone changes during puberty, pregnancy or the menopause
- Thyroid cancer
- Thyroid nodules
- Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism due to several causes
How do you Treat Goitre?
Treatment of goitre depends on the underlying cause:
- Goitre caused due to hyperthyroidism is treated with drugs that slow down the activity of the thyroid gland.
- Treatment with radioactive iodine destroys some or all of the thyroid’s hormone-producing cells. If these treatments fail to cure the thyroid disease, then the thyroid gland is surgically removed. Thyroid removal relieves the compression of the nearby structures because of the enlarged gland, thereby improving symptoms relating to difficulty in swallowing, cough or shortness of breath.
- Goitre caused due to hypothyroidism is treated with lifelong thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
- Goitre due to iodine deficiency is treated with iodine-rich foods, such as seafood and iodized salt.
- Benign thyroid nodules can be reduced in size with the help of thyroid hormone supplementation. destroyed with radioactive iodine treatment or removed using surgical methods.
- Thyroid cancer is removed surgically which is then followed by radioactive iodine treatment and thyroid replacement therapy as per thyroid function test.