What Is a Goiter?


Quick Answer

A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland that lies below the Adam's apple at the base of the neck, as stated by Mayo Clinic. The most common cause internationally is a lack of dietary iodine, but a goiter may also result from the abnormal production of thyroid hormones.

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Full Answer

Goiters are generally painless, and many cause no noticeable symptoms, according to Mayo Clinic. Large goiters may cause swelling near the base of the neck, coughing, a feeling of tightness in the throat, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing and hoarseness. Diagnosis for goiter generally involves a physical examination, and additional tests such as radioactive iodine tests and thyroid function tests may be needed to determine the underlying cause, as confirmed by the American Thyroid Association. A hypothyroid patient may have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and a hyperthyroid patient with a large goiter may have Graves' disease.

Treatment for a goiter depends on the underlying cause but may include iodine supplementation for an iodine deficiency, thyroid hormone supplements for Hashimoto's thyroiditis or radioactive iodine for Graves' disease, as listed by the American Thyroid Association. Multinodular goiters and other goiters associated with low levels of thyroid hormone in the blood may require no treatment. Patients who receive a goiter diagnosis should have the goiter monitored with regular checkups at least once a year.

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