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.
As expected, treatment also depends on which condition is causing the goiter. In cases of iodine deficiency, iodine supplementation may be prescribed while those in states of hypothyroidism may be given thyroid hormone medication. Other medications such as blood pressure-lowering drugs may be given for symptomatic relief of symptoms. For masses and cancers, these may be removed through surgery. More in-depth management discussions often happen with a doctor when the diagnosis is already certain.
How to Prevent Development of Goiter Symptoms
One of the most important things for the prevention of thyroid problems such as goiter is getting enough iodine intake. You can do this by eating seafood or by using iodized salt to season dishes.
As the key to goiter is early detection of any enlargement, it is also good to check your thyroid every once in a while. A simple test involves drinking a glass of water in front of a mirror. You may also check for bulges or protrusions in the midline area of the neck. Focus just below and to the side of where the Adam’s apple would be. Consult a doctor if you see or feel anything strange or out of the ordinary in this area.
Goiter, or enlargement of the thyroid, happens due to different causes. You should schedule a check up with a physician in order to start the right treatment. Most causes of goiter are curable, and there are management options that can help improve your quality of life of people.
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