Endocrine Diseases


​What is the thyroid gland?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. In certain cases, the thyroid gland may get swollen and become enlarged. This abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland is also known as a goiter.

The most common cause of goiters is iodine deficiency due to insufficient dietary intake of iodine.

A goiter is most often due to the over- or underproduction of thyroid hormones or to nodules that develop on the gland itself.

Not all goiters cause signs and symptoms. When signs and symptoms do occur they may include:
  • A visible swelling at the base of the neck that may be particularly obvious when you shave or put on makeup;
  • A tight feeling in the throat;
  • Coughing;
  • Hoarseness;
  • Difficulty swallowing;
  • Difficulty breathing.

A number of factors can cause the thyroid gland to enlarge, the most common of which include:
  • Iodine deficiency;
  • Graves' disease;
  • Hashimoto's disease;
  • Multinodular goiter;
  • Solitary thyroid nodules;
  • Thyroid cancer;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Thyroiditis.

Goiter treatment depends on the size of the goiter, the symptoms, and the underlying causes. If the goiter is small and doesn't cause problems, then it might not require treatment, and the doctor may simply observe the progression of the case.

There are three ways to treat goiter:
  • Medications: If the patient has hypothyroidism, thyroid hormone replacement with levothyroxine will resolve the symptoms of hypothyroidism as well as slow the release of thyroid-stimulating hormone from your pituitary gland, often decreasing the size of the goiter. For inflammation of the thyroid gland, the doctor may suggest aspirin or a corticosteroid medication to treat the inflammation.
  • Surgery: Removing all or part of the thyroid gland (total or partial thyroidectomy) is an option if the patient has a large goiter that causes difficulty breathing or swallowing, or in some cases, if the patient has a nodular goiter causing hyperthyroidism.  Surgery is also the treatment for thyroid cancer. The patient may need to take levothyroxine after surgery, depending on how much of the gland is removed.
  • Radioactive iodine: In some cases, radioactive iodine is used to treat an overactive thyroid gland. The radioactive iodine is taken orally and reaches the thyroid gland through the bloodstream, destroying thyroid cells. The treatment results in diminished size of the goiter, but eventually may also cause an underactive thyroid gland. In such cases patients may also need to take levothyroxine for the rest of their lives.

Last Update : 05 November 2020 05:05 AM
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