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Understanding the Causes and Treatment of Problem Thyroid Goiters

Understanding the Causes and Treatment of Problem Thyroid Goiters

Although most thyroid goiters are harmless, often thyroid goiters can be caused by autoimmune diseases tied to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Treating the root causes can help minimize or even reverse the progression of the goiter.

Goiter is one of the most commonly encountered types of thyroid conditions. This refers to the enlarging of the thyroid gland that has roots in a broad array of different causes, among them autoimmune diseases. Although usually seen as harmless, goiters are sometimes indicative of a more serious condition or may lead to various other symptoms, which may require interventions as determined by a physician.

Addressing extreme forms of goiter is one of many disciplines under thyroid management. Patients in Provo can rely on a trusted healthcare provider to deliver accurate diagnoses and treatment programs to manage extreme goiter and a host of other thyroid conditions.

All About Goiter

Goiters refer to a larger-than-usual thyroid gland, which has many different causes. Most instances of goiter are harmless, having no associated inflammations, and do not cause any lasting impediment to the function of the thyroid gland. Often, these so-called simple goiters do not have a clear cause and can be left alone with little to no treatment as determined by the attending physician.

Most minor goiters are merely felt rather than seen, although a sufficiently enlarged thyroid gland is typically visible when one turns around while looking in a mirror. The only real symptom experienced by most people with benign goiters is a minor difficulty in swallowing. Problem goiters, however, do exist. These often involve the abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland that is caused by a motley group of different diseases.

Worldwide, the most common cause of goiter is iodine deficiency, although this is rare in the United States and the rest of the developed world due to the abundance of iodine in the water and many types of food. The second most common cause is autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and Graves’ disease. Doctors usually identify problem goiters is usually done through their associated symptoms and careful testing.

Hypothyroidism vs. Hyperthyroidism

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the cells of the thyroid glands. This causes hypothyroidism, a reduction in the thyroid gland’s ability to produce hormones, causing a shortage that can negatively affect the body’s thermoregulation and ability to consume and process energy.

Grave’s disease, meanwhile, is one of the most common causes hyperthyroidism, a condition that leads the thyroid glands to overproduce hormones, causing the body’s metabolism to speed up considerably.  Also an autoimmune condition, Grave’s disease involves the overproduction of antibodies, which spur the thyroid glands to produce more hormones in response.

Treating Problem Goiters

Problematic thyroid goiters are often managed alongside the conditions that caused them. Goiters stemming from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, for instance, are often treated through hormone replacement therapy, which supplements the thyroid gland’s production of hormones. This helps arrest the enlargement of the goiter but cannot shrink it.  

Goiters caused by Grave’s disease, on the other hand, are treated with antithyroid medications, beta-blockers, and radioactive iodine. Radioactive iodine is one treatment that can reduce the goiter’s size.

In extreme cases, surgery may be deemed necessary. Surgery is pursued as a last resort and is often only done when the body’s production of thyroid hormones has already reached baseline levels.

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