Jayne has taught health/nutrition and education at the college level and has a master's degree in education.
A goiter is simply an abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located at the base of the front of your neck. It is shaped like a butterfly, and its function is to make hormones that help the body use energy, stay warm, and keep the organs of the body working properly. A goiter indicates that something is happening to cause the thyroid to behave abnormally.
Some of the most common causes of goiter include:
• Iodine deficiency -- iodine is an essential element for the production of thyroid hormones
• Graves' disease -- too much thyroid hormone is produced
• Hashimoto's disease -- too little thyroid hormone is produced
• Single and multinodular goiter -- solid or fluid-filled lump(s) develop in the thyroid gland
• Thyroid cancer
• Pregnancy -- extra hormones may cause enlargement of the thyroid gland
• Inflammation of the thyroid gland -- may cause enlargement
In the early 1800s, Bernard Courtois was trying to find ways to substitute ingredients to make gunpowder when he discovered the substance that would be identified as iodine. The word iodine comes from the Greek word for violet. The connection between iodine and goiter was made in 1820.
In the past, goiter was common in inland areas with iodine-deficient soil. In order to prevent goiter, some countries, including the U.S., starting adding iodine to salt in the 1920s.
Some of the symptoms goiters cause include:
• Swelling at the base of the neck
• A tightness in the throat
Large goiters may interfere with breathing and/or swallowing.
Small goiters that do not affect appearance, as long as the thyroid is functioning properly, need no treatment. If the cause is low levels of thyroid hormone, then replacement hormone will be given. Medication can also treat inflammation, and high levels of thyroid hormone.
Surgery to remove all or part of the goiter may be necessary in the case of a goiter that interferes with breathing, or in the case of cancer. Replacement hormone may be necessary, depending on how much of the thyroid is removed. The replacement hormone may be made from pigs' thyroid glands or a synthetic form.
Radioactive iodine is sometimes used to treat goiter caused by an overactive thyroid. It often results in diminished production of thyroid hormone, so replacement hormone is necessary.
In Roman times, the treatment for goiter was either burning or cutting it out. They did not understand what would happen if the patient survived treatment, an unlikely occurrence. Life without the thyroid hormone would be very unpleasant, as the body could not regulate body temperature, moods, fatigue, heart problems, etc.
The ancient Chinese first discovered treatment for goiter by using the thyroid glands of animals around 640 A.D. They didn't make the connection between iodine and goiter, however.
• Goiter is an abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland, found at the base of the neck.
• Goiter is caused by iodine deficiency in many parts of the world.
• In industrialized nations, Hashimoto's disease and Graves' disease are the most common causes of goiter.
• Treatment is usually in the form of replacement hormone or other medication, although surgery and radioactive iodine are other forms of treatment.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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