About 20 million Americans have thyroid disease, and up to 60% of those men and women don’t even know it. The remaining 40% have obvious symptoms, and for some people, that includes having an enlarged thyroid gland, also called a goiter.
At Desert West Surgery, our providers are skilled in thyroid surgery to eliminate symptoms and improve your overall health and wellness. In this post, our team provides a brief overview of goiters and how they’re linked with your thyroid health.
Your thyroid gland is a two-lobed, butterfly-shaped gland that stretches across the base of your neck. The purpose of the gland is to produce hormones that play critical roles in:
- Weight gain and loss
- Body temperature
- Energy levels
Thyroid enlargement doesn’t necessarily mean your thyroid gland is malfunctioning. But it usually is an indicator of an underlying cause. Three of the most common causes include inflammation of the gland, problems with how the gland produces hormones, and the presence of a tumor.
Thyroid inflammation, or thyroiditis, can have several causes. Some types of inflammation are self-limiting and clear up on their own, while many other types require medical treatment.
One common cause of thyroid inflammation in the United States is an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s disease. In autoimmune disorders, your body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue — in this case, the tissue of your thyroid gland.
In addition to pain and swelling, Hashimoto’s disease often interferes with hormone production. Many people with Hashimoto’s disease wind up developing an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism.
Problems with hormone production
The thyroid needs to make specific levels of thyroid hormones for the body to function normally. If the gland isn’t producing enough hormones, it may try to compensate by enlarging.
The thyroid gland needs iodine to produce sufficient hormones. In many areas of the world, iodine deficiency is the leading cause of goiter. In the U.S., where iodized salt is routinely used, iodine deficiency is extremely rare.
Iodine deficiency isn’t the only factor that can interfere with thyroid hormone production. Genetic issues, underlying disease, and certain medications or medical treatments can interrupt normal hormone production, resulting in an enlarged thyroid gland.
Thyroid tumors typically show up as nodules or discrete “lumps” in your thyroid. These nodules may not cause any symptoms until they grow larger.
Many thyroid tumors are benign, but some can be malignant (cancerous). If you notice a lump or swelling in your thyroid gland, it’s crucial to have it medically evaluated right away.
Many goiters respond to medication or other non-invasive treatments. But when these approaches fail or if you have thyroid cancer, surgical treatment is typically the best option.
Our team offers three types of thyroid surgery:
- Thyroidectomy, complete removal of the thyroid gland
- Near-total thyroidectomy, removing most of the gland
- Lobectomy, which only removes one side of your thyroid gland
Surgery is also recommended when a goiter interferes with your ability to breathe or swallow or when it causes pain or other uncomfortable symptoms that can be relieved with medication.
Maintaining thyroid health
If you have a swollen thyroid gland, having it medically evaluated is the first step toward getting the most appropriate treatment. Call Desert West Surgery in Las Vegas, Nevada, or book an appointment online today to learn more about thyroid surgery.