About This Condition
Goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland that often produces a noticeable swelling in the front of the neck.
This enlargement can be caused by iodine deficiency, inability of the body to use iodine correctly, or a variety of thyroid disorders, including infection, tumors, and autoimmune disease. Some environmental pollutants, heavy metal poisonings, and certain drugs can also contribute to goiter formation.1,2,3 Both iodine deficiency and inability to use iodine properly make the thyroid gland unable to produce thyroid hormone, a hormone that helps to regulate the body’s metabolic rate. This state is called hypothyroidism and the symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, heavy menstrual bleeding in women, dry skin and hair, as well as goiter.
Iodine-deficiency goiter can be common in regions where the soils and foods have insufficient iodine. Preschool children, adolescent girls, pregnant women, and the elderly are most vulnerable to goiter and other iodine-deficiency disorders.4 Areas where iodine supplies are inadequate see high rates not only of goiter but also of birth defects and retardation of both mental and physical development.5 While iodine deficiency is the leading cause of goiter worldwide, it is a rare cause of goiter in the developed world. For this reason, any goiter that occurs in the developed world must be evaluated by a healthcare provider and its cause determined before any treatment is given.
People with goiter may notice a soft swelling in the front of the neck.
Other treatment includes the use of iodized table salt and the avoidance of goiter promoting (goitrogenic) foods, such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and soy. Surgical removal or radioactive iodine treatments may be necessary for cosmetic reasons or in individuals with large goiters that interfere with breathing or swallowing.