What is goiter? What causes goiter?

The term 'goiter' refers to a medical condition caused by an abnormally enlarged thyroid gland. The thyroid gland makes use of iodine to produce thyroid hormones. Thus low level of iodine in the body affects the thyroid hormone production. The brain would stimulate the thyroid gland when thyroid hormone levels are low, resulting in the enlargement of the gland. Compared to men women are at greater risk of developing goiter. This disease is less common in youngsters.

What causes the enlargement of thyroid gland?

  • Iodine deficiency
  • Inflammation and tumor
  • Over-function/ under-function of the thyroid gland
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Graves’ disease
  • Multinodular goiters
  • Sporadic goiter: This condition is caused when your diet contains too much of soybeans, rutabagas, cabbage, peaches, peanuts, and spinach. These foods affect the body’s natural capacity to process iodine.

What are the symptoms of goiter?

  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Severe cases of thyroid enlargement result in breathing difficulties, cough, hoarseness and swallowing difficulties.

How is goiter diagnosed?

Proper physical examination is done to check the abnormality of the thyroid gland. Thyroid function tests are needed to find out the underlying cause of thyroid enlargement. If you have a hyper active thyroid gland, tests for grave’s disease are followed. Tests for hashimoto’s thyroiditis are conducted if you have hypothyroidism. Other tests such as a radioactive iodine scan, thyroid ultrasound or a fine needle aspiration biopsy are used to diagnose the other causes of goiter.

How is goiter treated?

Treatment varies depending on the cause of the goiter.

  • Iodine supplementation in the case of iodine deficiency
  • Thyroid hormone supplementation in the case of hypothyroidism/ hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Radioactive iodine treatment for goiter caused by hyperthyroidism/ grave’s disease
  • There are no specific treatments available for the goiter associated with normal levels of thyroid hormone in the blood such as, the multinodular goiter. However if the goiter is getting abnormally large, surgical removal is preferred.

Estimated cost for surgical removal of goiter is $15,000-$20,000.

How to prevent the risk of developing goiter?

  • Use iodized table salt.
  • Add sea weed, shrimps, shell fish, fruits and vegetables rich in iodine to your diet.