If you’ve had problems with a goiter you know it can be a pain in the neck. But do you know what’s behind the bulging bump?
“Goiter is a general definition of an enlarged gland. And it has a lot of, a lot of different causes. Could be the inflammatory, could be the thyroiditis, could be multiple tumors, could be multiple nodules or cysts,” says Dr. Jacob Goldberger, general surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
The most common cause worldwide is an iodine deficiency. The thyroid concentrates iodine from the body to produce its hormone. In the absence of iodine, the body attempts to compensate. It’s still an issue in undeveloped countries.
In this country goiter cases dropped drastically in the 1920’s once iodine was infused in table salt. The more common cause of goiter in the U.S. is autoimmune thyroiditis - where the body attacks itself.
“The general term that applies to it is Hashimoto Thyroiditis. The gland burns itself out and essentially stops functioning. But in the process, it forms a huge, scarified gland, non-functioning,” says Dr. Goldberger.
Graves disease may also produce a goiter.
“Graves disease is a hyperactive, or excessively active, thyroid. It becomes enlarged, swollen, and very uncomfortable for the patient and is treated medically very easily most times with either medication or radioactive iodine. On occasion, it is difficult to control and they’re sent over to the surgeon,” says Goldberger.
If a goiter gets so large that it constricts the airway, your doctor may recommend removal. In itself, the goiter is generally harmless.
“An enlarged gland itself is of no consequence unless: one, you have symptoms of breathing difficulty, swallowing problems or pressure situation, or if it’s quickly enlarging suggest that you may have something else going on such as a tumor growing,” says Dr. Goldberger.
If you or your doctor detects a goiter, it’s important to determine the cause and then respond appropriately.