What is Goiter?

Dr Foram Bhuta

Dr Foram Bhuta

BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery), 10 years of experience

February 11, 2022 Lifestyle Diseases 511 Views

English हिन्दी Bengali

What is the meaning of Goiter?

An increase in the size of the thyroid gland is known as goiter. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located at the base of the neck, in the throat region. Goiter is usually a painless condition. But in the case of a large goiter, the person may experience a persistent cough along with a difficulty in breathing or swallowing.

Let us get detailed information about Goiter disease in today’s article.

  • What is Goiter?
  • What are the types of Goiters?
  • What are the causes of Goiter?
  • What are the risk factors for Goiter?
  • What are the symptoms of Goiter?
  • How to diagnose Goiter?
  • What is the treatment for Goiter?

What is Goiter?

Goiter is a condition that causes the thyroid gland to grow abnormally. It forms a lump in the throat.

The thyroid gland produces the hormones thyroxine (T4 hormone) and triiodothyronine (T3 hormone). Most of the T4 hormone is changed to the T3 hormone of the thyroid gland. These hormones play a crucial role in maintaining a few bodily functions like digestion, pulse rate, mood, excitability, and body temperature.

Goiter leads to the production of either a low level of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism) or an appropriate level of hormones (euthyroidism).

Goiter is more commonly seen in women as compared to men.

What are the types of Goiters?

Goiter may have several causes. This results in different types of goiters, which include:

Simple goiter:

  • A simple goiter develops when the thyroid gland does not make sufficient hormones to meet the requirements of the body.
  • The thyroid gland tries to compensate for the shortage of hormones by growing larger in size.

Colloid (endemic) goiter:

  • This type of goiter develops due to the lack of iodine, which is a mineral essential for the production of thyroid hormones.
  • Colloid goiter develops in people who live in areas with iodine scarcity.

Nontoxic (sporadic) goiter:

  • The exact cause of nontoxic goiter is not known, though it is known to occur due to consumption of medications like Lithium.
  • Lithium is used in the treatment of mood disorders such as bipolar disorder (a disorder with episodes of depression and mania).
  • This type of goiter does not affect thyroid hormone production, that is, it neither causes hyperthyroidism (excessive thyroid hormone formation) nor hypothyroidism (thyroid hormone level is not enough), and the thyroid functions normally.

Multinodular or toxic nodular goiter:

  • This type of goiter leads to the formation of one or more small nodules, which are solid or fluid-filled lumps, as it enlarges in size.
  • The thyroid gland feels lumpy on touching.
  • The nodules lead to the production of their own thyroid hormone, causing hyperthyroidism.
  • This type of goiter usually forms as an extension of the simple goiter.

( Know more about- What is Thyroid Disorders? )

What are the causes of Goiter?

Goiter can occur due to the following reasons:

  • Iodine deficiency: Goiter disease occurs due to the lack of iodine in the diet. If iodized salt is not used in the food, then the person may develop this disease.
  • Graves’ disease: This condition occurs when the thyroid gland produces more thyroid hormones than normal. This is known as hyperthyroidism. This causes an increase in the size of the thyroid gland.

( Know more about- What is Grave’s Disease? )

  • Hashimoto’s disease: When the thyroid hormone does not produce enough thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) it leads to Hashimoto’s disease. This causes the pituitary gland (a pea-sized gland attached to the base of the brain that helps in the maintenance of vital body functions) to make more amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone (a hormone that stimulates the thyroid gland to produce the T3 and T4 hormones) leading to the enlargement of the thyroid gland.
  • Nodules: Fluid-filled or solid lumps (known as cysts) may lead to the enlargement of the thyroid gland. These nodules are generally non-cancerous.
  • Inflammation: Thyroiditis is a condition in which there is an inflammation of the thyroid, causing goiter.
  • Thyroid cancer: Thyroid cancer may cause swelling on one side of the thyroid gland.

( Know more about- What is Thyroid Cancer? Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, Prevention )

  • Pregnancy: A hormone called HCG is produced in the woman’s body during pregnancy. This hormone causes the thyroid gland to enlarge slightly.

( Know more about- What is Tonsil Stone? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention )

What are the risk factors for Goiter?

There is a high risk of developing goiter in the following conditions:

  • Family history of thyroid disorders
  • Iodine deficiency in the diet
  • Pre-existing medical disorders that cause a decrease in the iodine levels in the body
  • More common in women
  • Above 40 years of age
  • History of radiation therapy (radio waves used for the treatment of cancer) in the neck or chest region
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause (stopping of the menstrual cycle)

( Know more about- What is Menopause? Age, Symptoms, Side effects )

What are the symptoms of Goiter?

The size of the goiter may be small or big in different individuals. The various symptoms of goiter are:

  • Swelling in the neck region
  • Feeling of tightness in the throat region
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Dizziness on raising the arms above the head

( Know more about- What is Dizziness? Home remedies for Dizziness? )

If you experience any of these symptoms, then contact your doctor immediately.

( Know more about- What is a Hoarse Voice? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention )

How to diagnose Goiter?

  • Physical examination: The doctor examines the neck area of the patient to check for nodules, swelling, and any sign of pain or tenderness.
  • Blood tests: The change in hormone levels can be detected with the help of blood tests. An increase in the level of antibodies indicates an underlying infection, injury, or an overactive immune system.
  • Thyroid ultrasound: A thyroid ultrasound is a procedure in which high-frequency sound waves are used to create images of the thyroid gland. It helps in detecting the size of the thyroid gland and to find nodules.
  • Thyroid scan: This is an imaging test that helps in giving information about the function and size of the thyroid gland. In this test, a small radioactive material is injected into a vein to create an image of the thyroid gland on the computer screen.
  • CT (Computerized tomography) scan or MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) scan: These are imaging tests performed when the goiter is very large and has spread into the chest area. They help in measuring the size and the spread of the goiter.
  • Biopsy: It is a procedure of removing small samples of the thyroid nodules (if present) and sending them to the laboratory for further investigation.

( Know more about- What is Full Body Checkup? )

What is the Treatment for Goiter?

Before treating the goiter, the doctor will get information about the patient’s symptoms. The doctor starts the treatment only after understanding the symptoms.

In the case of a small goiter with no symptoms, no treatment is required. The following are the different modes of treatment for goiter:

  • Increase in iodine intake: If a goiter has occurred due to iodine deficiency, then in this situation, it is advisable to consume iodized salt in the diet.
  1. Medications: In the case of hyperthyroidism, medications are given to reduce the function of the thyroid gland. If the medications fail to provide any relief, then the doctor decides to perform surgery to remove the thyroid gland. Medications can also be given to treat hypothyroidism and thyroiditis.
  2. Radioactive iodine: Radioactive iodine is one way to treat an underactive thyroid. In this, radioactive iodine is consumed through the mouth. When radioactive iodine reaches the throat, the size of the goiter starts shrinking. It can also be used to treat toxic multinodular goiter.
  3. Surgery: In the case of thyroid cancer or in cases of difficulty in breathing, the doctor removes the thyroid gland through surgery. This procedure is called thyroidectomy. It destroys the thyroid gland and reduces the size of the goiter.

( Know more about- What is Thyroidectomy? Purpose, Procedure, Aftercare, Cost )

There are many doctors and hospitals in India where Thyroidectomy is done with great expertise and precision. 

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We hope we have answered all your questions about the goiter through this article.

If you want more information and treatment about goiter disease, then contact the ENT doctor without any delay.

We aim to provide you with information through this article. We do not recommend any medicine or treatment to anyone. Only a doctor can give you good advice and the correct treatment plan.

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