Goitre: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Experiencing an odd swelling in your neck? Find out if it is a symptom of goitre and what you can do to treat it.

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Goitre is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Although often harmless, the thyroid gland disorder may occasionally cause discomfort by interfering with your swallowing or breathing. Generally, most people do not exhibit any symptoms except for a slight swelling of the neck.

Read on to learn more about goitre, which is said to be one of the most common thyroid disorders. 

Goitre: Causes

The enlargement of the thyroid gland arising from goitre can be brought on by the following conditions:
Iodine deficiency
Graves' disease
Hashimoto's disease
Solitary thyroid nodule
Thyroid cancer
Pregnancy

Types of Goitre

Goitres are more common in women than men and may vary according to size and symptom. The main types of goitres are:
Diffuse smooth goitre: uniform enlargement of the thyroid gland
Nodular goitre: a lump that develops on the thyroid gland

Goitre: Symptoms

Symptoms of goitre may include:
Swelling in the neck
A tight feeling in the throat
Coughing
Difficulty swallowing
Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
Symptoms of hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland is inactive, or hyperthyroidism, which is marked by an overactive thyroid gland 

Goitre: Diagnosis Methods 

The diagnosis of a goitre can be made by physically examining the neck to determine the degree of gland enlargement. However, the doctor may also conduct other tests to uncover possible underlying problems with your thyroid function.

These tests include:
Blood tests to measure your levels of thyroid hormones (triiodothyronine or T3 and thyroxine or T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) in the blood
An antibody test to confirm the presence of antibodies in the blood
Ultrasound scans to assess the thyroid gland and size of the goitre 

Goitre: Treatment Options

Most cases of goitre can be treated with an adequate intake of iodine. However, depending on the size, symptoms, and cause of the enlargement, your doctor may also suggest other forms of treatment.

Treatment options include:
Observation: Adopting a wait-and-see approach, which usally occurs if the goitre is small
Medication: If the person has hypothyroidism, thyroid hormone replacement with levothyroxine (L-thyroxine) will be necessary to correct the deficiency
Surgery: In cases where the goitre is large and causing difficulty in breathing and swallowing, removal of the entire or part of the thyroid gland is recommended 
Radioactive iodine: Those with an overactive thyroid gland can be treated with radioactive iodine

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Goitre: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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