Goiter is basically a lump and it manifests itself as an enlarged thyroid gland, making the neck look swollen. People tend to think that goiter is a kind of neck cancer, but it isn't. Luckily for the ones who have it, it is treatable.
Goiters can occur if thyroid hormone produced is too much, too little, or even just the right amount. This term denotes the abnormal growth or size of the thyroid gland from what it should be. A simple goiter can occur for an unknown reason or when the thyroid is unable to produce enough amount thyroid hormone to satisfy the body's needs. The thyroid gland grows bigger to compensate for this situation.
According to the American Thyroid Association, there are many causes of this condition.
• Iodine Deficiency -
The most common cause is the deficiency of iodine in the body which is needed for the production of thyroid hormones. Because of this deficiency, TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) is produced by the Anterior Pituitary Gland to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones, making the thyroid gland big as mentioned above.
Goiters are present in groups of people that live on areas with soils poor in iodine, generally far from the sea. It is possible that people in this zone don't get enough iodine in their food because they are not easily accessible. The iodine insufficiency is still common on Central Asia, the Andina Region of South America and central Africa. However, food fortification with iodine such as iodized salt has helped a lot of people prevent this deficiency.
• Autoimmune Conditions -
There are also autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto's Disease that causes destruction of the thyroid gland decreasing the production of thyroid hormones. As this is sensed by the brain, the cycle of TSH production goes on and goiter is developed.
With Grave's Disease, on the other hand, there is a production of TSI (Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobulin) that makes the thyroid gland produce more thyroid hormone while stimulating it to grow bigger even if the TSH production from the pituitary gland has been stopped.
• Nodules -
Nodules within the thyroid gland are another cause for goiters, for it stimulates the thyroid gland to enlarge.
• Hereditary -
Heredity plays a major role in this condition. However there are factors that put a person at greater chance of having goiters such as age 40 years and above, female, lack of iodine intake, family history, and having diseases affecting the thyroid gland.
Common symptoms felt by the affected person such as breathing problems, recurrent cough, hoarseness of voice, and difficulty to swallow result from the pressing of the windpipe and esophagus from the enlarged thyroid. There can be swelling on the neck veins and dizziness when the arms are lifted over the head.
Treatment should depend on the cause of the condition.
For iodine deficiency, Lugol's solution or SSKI may be prescribed.
For too much thyroid hormone, radioactive iodine may be given to allow the gland to shrink.
For hypoactive gland, thyroid hormone supplement is given. However if the symptoms make the person feel difficulty in breathing, a surgery is needed.
It is best to do the things that we can to prevent this condition from happening. We should increase our consumption of iodine-rich foods, supervised by the doctor not to take excessive amount of iodine, as too much iodine may bring other complications to the body.