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What Causes Goiters?

What Causes Goiters?

Thyroid disease is surprisingly common, affecting roughly 20 million American women and men. Because symptoms can be subtle, especially initially, roughly 60% of people with thyroid disease don’t even know they have it.

Goiter is a relatively common type of thyroid disease that’s often easier to diagnose. It causes the thyroid gland to swell and grow larger, making it more visible than normal. At Desert West Surgery, our team is skilled in diagnosing and treating goiter and other thyroid problems, including thyroid cancer. Here’s why goiter happens and what we can do to treat it.

Goiter and your thyroid gland

Located near your voice box (larynx), your thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly, with the “wings” or lobes hugging your neck. These lobes are connected by a thinner bridge of tissue called an isthmus.

The thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate body temperature, metabolism, and a host of other functions. A goiter happens when the gland enlarges, or forms lumps called nodules that may or may not affect hormone production.

Goiters can vary substantially, and some very small goiters may not cause any noticeable symptoms. But regardless of size, a goiter is never normal. Because some lumps can be cancerous, if your thyroid gland is enlarged or changes shape in any way, you should always have it medically evaluated.

Why goiters happen

Worldwide, goiter is often associated with iodine deficiency. But in Western countries like the United States, most goiters are caused by an underlying autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s disease.

You can also develop a goiter if you have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroid disease) or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroid disease). These diseases happen when the thyroid produces too many or too few hormones.

Finally, some people develop growths or nodules inside the thyroid gland. These nodules can grow and swell, resulting in goiter and affecting the levels of hormones the gland produces. As a goiter grows, it can cause symptoms like:

You might have symptoms like low energy or lethargy, weight changes, heart palpitations, bloating, or sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures when associated with hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

Treating your goiter

For very small goiters that aren’t causing symptoms, monitoring is typically the first—and sometimes only—course of treatment. If blood work determines your thyroid hormone levels are too high or too low, we may prescribe medicine to manage hormone production. Treating underlying disease, like hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, may also reduce swelling.

For larger goiters, we may recommend thyroid surgery, particularly if they are very large, causing discomfort, or interfering with breathing. We offer different types of thyroid surgery depending on the size of your goiter, its effect on hormone production, and other factors.

A total thyroidectomy removes the entire gland and the isthmus tissue that connects it. A subtotal thyroidectomy removes one lobe, the isthmus, and part of the second lobe, while a lobectomy removes one lobe with or without the isthmus.

Once the gland tissue is removed, we evaluate it in a lab to look for any signs of cancer. Following surgery, you may need to take medication to replace or supplement the thyroid hormones your thyroid can no longer produce.

Prioritize thyroid health

Your thyroid gland plays a key role in your overall health and wellness. If you think you might have a thyroid problem, don’t delay getting a diagnosis. To learn how we can help, call Desert West Surgery and schedule a visit at the Las Vegas location nearest you.

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