A simple goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. It is usually not cancer.
There are different kinds of goiters:
The body needs iodine to produce thyroid hormone:
In many cases of simple goiter, the cause is unknown. Other than a lack of iodine, other factors that may lead to the condition include:
Simple goiters are also more common in:
The main symptom is an enlarged thyroid gland. The size may range from a single small nodule to a large neck lump.
Some people with a simple goiter may have symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland.
In rare cases, an enlarged thyroid can put pressure on the windpipe (trachea) and food tube (esophagus). This can lead to:
The doctor will do a physical exam. This involves feeling your neck as you swallow. Swelling in the area of the thyroid may be felt.
If you have a very large goiter, you may have swelling in your neck vein. As a result, when the doctor asks you to raise your arms above your head, you may feel dizzy.
Blood tests may be ordered to measure thyroid function:
Tests to look for abnormal and possibly cancerous areas in the thyroid gland include:
If nodules are found on an ultrasound, a biopsy may be needed to check for thyroid cancer.
A goiter only needs to be treated if it is causing symptoms.
Treatments for an enlarged thyroid include:
A simple goiter may disappear on its own, or may become larger. Over time, the thyroid gland may stop making enough thyroid hormone. This condition is called hypothyroidism.
Call your health care provider if you experience any swelling in the front of your neck or any other symptoms of goiter.
Using iodized table salt prevents most simple goiters.
Simple goiter; Endemic goiter; Colloidal goiter; Nontoxic goiter; Toxic nodular goiter
Kim M, Ladenson P. Thyroid. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 233.
Schlumberger MJ, Filetti S, Hay ID. Nontoxic diffuse and nodular goiter and thyroid neoplasia. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, et al., eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 14.
Updated by: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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