Goiter is a condition in which the thyroid gland grows larger.

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, below the Adam’s apple.

The thyroid gland produces the hormones:

  1. Thyroxine (also called T4) and
  2. Triiodothyronine (also called T3).

These hormones regulate blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate and weight.

 What are potential thyroid problems?

  • Overactive Thyroid – Hyperthyroidism
  • Underactive Thyroid – Hypothyroidism
  • Malignancy – Thyroid cancer [Read: Thyroid Cancer]
  • Growth – Thyroid nodules/Goitre

While all of these conditions can be serious, each has its own symptoms and distinctions

How common is goitre?

Worldwide, goitre is estimated by the World Health Organization to affect around 12% of people.

Is goitre inherited?

Some forms of goitre can be inherited.

What are the Types of Goitre?

  1. Diffuse – the whole thyroid gland swells and it’s smooth to touch
  2. Nodular– solid or fluid-filled lumps called thyroid nodules develop in the thyroid gland.
  • Uninodular with only one nodule
  • Multinodular with more than one nodule
  1. Endemic goitre– due to insufficient dietary iodine intake. More than 10% of the community is usually affected.
  2. Sporadic goitre – The risk factors include a positive family history, dietary iodine deficiency, age (over 40 years) and female gender.

Other diseases and conditions can also cause a goiter. These include:

  1. Thyroiditis
    Inflammation of the thyroid gland itself
  2. Nodular goiter
    Growths called nodules occur on one or both sides of the thyroid gland, causing it to grow larger.
  3. Graves’ disease – Autoimmune disease
  4. Hashimoto’s disease – Autoimmune disease
  5. Thyroid cancer
    Cancer of the thyroid gland often enlarges the thyroid.
  6. Pregnancy
    Human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone that a woman produces during pregnancy, can cause the thyroid to grow.
  7. Exposure to radiation
    A person who has had medical radiation treatments to the head and neck has a greater risk of developing goiter.

What are the symptoms of a goitre?

The main symptoms of goiter include:

  • A swelling in the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple.
  • Hoarseness of voice.
  • Neck vein swelling.
  • Dizziness when the arms are raised above the head.

Less commonly:

  • Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing


How is Goitre diagnosed?

  1. Physical exam

The doctor may discover an enlarged thyroid gland simply by feeling your neck and having the Patient swallow during a basic physical exam

  1. Hormone test

T3, T4, TSH

  1. Antibody test
  2. Ultrasound of the thyroid.

The size of your thyroid gland and whether the gland contains nodules.

  1. Thyroid scan

Check the nature and size of your thyroid  [Read: Thyroid Cancer]

  1. CT scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the thyroid

To measure the size and spread of the goiter.

  1. FNAC

Fine needle aspiration to get a histological diagnosis of thyroid swelling


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