When goiters become large enough to press on the windpipe, it can cause difficulty breathing as well as hoarseness from pressing on the nerves controlling the vocal cords. If the inward growth of the goiter is so large that the esophagus is also affected, the person may also have difficulty swallowing.
Risks & Complications
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Goiter?
There are many causes that may cause goiter:
- A lack of iodine in the diet, especially for people living in areas where iodine is in short supply, causes a predisposition to goiter.
- Goiter is also known to occur more commonly in females than males.
- Older age, specifically age over 40 is another risk factor.
- Use of certain medications such as amiodarone and lithium also increases risk.
- Radiation treatments to the neck or chest or exposure to radiation in a nuclear facility or accident also predisposes an individual to the development of goiter.
Sometimes people who have none of these risk factors still develop goiter, but presence of these risk factors are important when determining what causes goiter.
What Are the Possible Complications of Goiter?
When goiter causes no cosmetic and medical problems it is usually not a concern. But, as mentioned earlier, when the goiter grows large, it can affect the surrounding anatomy. And this causes difficulty in breathing or even swallowing.
If the goiter turns out to be cancer, it can spread to other organs if left untreated.
Goiter associated with metabolic problems often severely affects various organs. And this may negatively impact the person’s quality of life as a whole when ignored. This is why early consultation, regular follow up, and good adherence to long-term treatment are important.
Diagnosis, Treatment & Management
What Are the Diagnosis, Management, and Treatment Options?
Diagnosis of different conditions requires different tests. A goiter thyroid function test (TFT), which measures the levels of thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone in the blood, is usually the first test requested in the process of finding out what causes goiter. The decision whether to pursue further testing such as blood tests or imaging depends on the result of the TFTs and the clinical presentation of the individual with goiter.
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