What is an Enlarged Thyroid?
An enlarged thyroid, also called a goiter, is an accumulation of thyroid cells that causes a swelling of the gland in the front of the neck. An enlarged thyroid may be caused by several different issues, but the most common cause of an enlarged thyroid is an iodine deficiency. Thyroid enlargement can also be caused by problems with the pituitary gland, Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, cysts, nodules, and benign tumors.
Symptoms of an Enlarged Thyroid
The primary symptom of an enlarged thyroid is a swelling in the front part of the neck. Other common symptoms include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- Tightness in the throat
Diagnosing an Enlarged Thyroid
To diagnose an enlarged thyroid, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and/or an ultrasound imaging. Other tests may include a TSH test, which measures the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. Your doctor may also order a thyroid scan and/or a thyroid biopsy to confirm their diagnosis.
Treating an Enlarged Thyroid
The treatment for an enlarged thyroid depends on the underlying cause. If the cause of the enlargement is iodine deficiency, your doctor may recommend taking a daily iodine supplement. For other more serious causes, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or cancer, more aggressive treatments may be necessary. These treatments may include radioactive iodine therapy, thyroid hormone therapy, or surgery to remove part of the thyroid gland.
Increasing Your chance of avoiding an Enlarged Thyroid
The best way to prevent an enlarged thyroid is to make sure you’re getting enough iodine in your diet. Foods that are high in iodine include dairy products, seafood, seaweed, and eggs. It’s also important to get regular checkups with your doctor to ensure any thyroid problems are caught and treated early.
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