Goiter is a condition in which the thyroid gland grows larger. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, below the Adam’s apple.
The thyroid gland produces the hormones thyroxine (also called T4) and triiodothyronine (also called T3). (Most of the T4 is changed to T3 outside of the thyroid.) These hormones play a role in certain bodily functions, including body temperature, mood and excitability, pulse rate, digestion and others.
Sign and symptoms
Not all goiters cause signs and symptoms. When signs and symptoms do occur, they may include:
- A visible swelling at the base of your neck that may be particularly obvious when you shave or put on makeup
- A tight feeling in your throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
Goiters have different causes, depending on their type.
- Simple goiters: Develop when the thyroid gland does not make enough hormones to meet the body’s needs. The thyroid gland tries to make up for this shortage by growing larger.
- Endemic goiters: occur in people in certain parts of the world who do not get enough iodine in their diet (iodine is necessary to make thyroid hormone). For instance, a lack of iodine in the diet is still a common problem in parts of central Asia and central Africa. Because iodine is added to table salt in the United States and other countries, this type of goiter usually does not occur in these countries.
- Sporadic goiters: In most cases, have no known cause. In some cases, certain drugs can cause this type of goiter. For example, the drug lithium, which is used to treat certain mental health conditions, as well as other medical conditions, can cause this type of goiter.
Several things can cause your thyroid gland to enlarge. Some of the most common are:
- Iodine deficiency: Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, and is found primarily in seawater and in the soil in coastal areas. In the developing world, people who live inland or at high elevations are often iodine deficient and can develop goiters when the thyroid enlarges in an effort to obtain more iodine. Iodine deficiency may be made worse by a diet high in hormone-inhibiting foods, such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. In countries where iodine is routinely added to table salt and other foods, a lack of dietary iodine isn’t usually the cause of goiters.
- Graves’ disease: A goiter can sometimes occur when your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism). In someone who has Graves’ disease, antibodies produced by the immune system mistakenly attack the thyroid gland, causing it to produce excess thyroxine. This over stimulation causes the thyroid to swell.
- Hashimoto’s disease: A goiter can also result from an under active thyroid (hypothyroidism). Like Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder. But instead of causing your thyroid to produce too much hormone, Hashimoto’s damages your thyroid so that it produces too little. Sensing a low hormone level, your pituitary gland produces more TSH to stimulate the thyroid, which then causes the gland to enlarge.
- Multinodular goiter: In this condition, several solid or fluid-filled lumps called nodules develop in both sides of your thyroid, resulting in overall enlargement of the gland.
- Solitary thyroid nodules: In this case, a single nodule develops in one part of your thyroid gland. Most nodules are noncancerous (benign) and don’t lead to cancer.
- Thyroid cancer: Thyroid cancer is far less common than benign thyroid nodules. A biopsy of a thyroid nodule is very accurate in determining whether it’s cancerous.
- Pregnancy: A hormone produced during pregnancy, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), may cause your thyroid gland to enlarge slightly.
- Inflammation: Thyroiditis is an inflammatory condition that can cause pain and swelling in the thyroid. It may also cause the body to produce too much or too little.
Goiters can affect anyone. They may be present at birth and occur at any time throughout life. Some common risk factors for goiters include:
- A lack of dietary iodine: People living in areas where iodine is in short supply and who don’t have access to iodine supplements are at high risk of goiters.
- Being female: Because women are more prone to thyroid disorders, they’re also more likely to develop goiters.
- Age: Goiters are more common after age 40.
- Medical history: A personal or family history of autoimmune disease increases the risk.
- Pregnancy and menopause: For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, thyroid problems are more likely to occur during pregnancy and menopause.
- Certain medications: Some medical treatments, including the heart drug amiodarone (Pacerone, others) and the psychiatric drug lithium (Lithobid, others), increase the risk.
- Radiation exposure: The risk increases if you’ve had radiation treatments to your neck or chest area or you’ve been exposed to radiation in a nuclear facility, test or accident.
Small goiters that don’t cause physical or cosmetic problems aren’t a concern. But large goiters can make it hard to breathe or swallow and can cause a cough and hoarseness.
Goiters that result from other conditions, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, may be associated with a number of symptoms, ranging from fatigue and weight gain to unintended weight loss, irritability and trouble sleeping.
Several tests can be used to diagnose and evaluate goiter, including the following:
- Physical exam: The doctor may be able to tell if the thyroid gland has grown by feeling the neck area for nodules and signs of tenderness.
- Hormone test: This blood test measures thyroid hormone levels, which tell if the thyroid is working properly.
- Antibody test: This blood test looks for certain antibodies that are produced in some forms of goiter. An antibody is a protein made by white blood cells. Antibodies help defend against invaders (for example, viruses) that cause disease or infection in the body.
- Ultrasound of the thyroid: Ultrasound is a procedure that sends high-frequency sound waves through body tissues. The echoes are recorded and transformed into video or photos. Ultrasound of the thyroid reveals the gland’s size and finds nodules.
- Thyroid scan: This imaging test provides information on the size and function of the gland. In this test, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein to produce an image of the thyroid on a computer screen. This test is not ordered very often, since it is only useful in certain circumstances.
- CT scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the thyroid: If the goiter is very large or spreads into the chest, a CT scan or MRI is used to measure the size and spread of the goiter.
Homeopathy offers very safe and effective treatment for goiter without the need for surgical intervention. There are a large number of medicines for treating goiter, but no one treats for all types. The most appropriate medicine is selected after a detailed study and analysis of individual symptoms. Natural medicines for goiter help reduce swelling of the thyroid gland and symptomatically manage the condition. In cases where the auto-immune origin of the disease is found, natural medicines help by optimizing the immune system and making it strong enough to tackle the disease.
Iodum is one of the top listed medicines for goiter. It is used when the thyroid gland is enlarged, hyperactive and the metabolic functions of the body are accelerated. The thyroid gland may also be indurated and hard along with its enlargement. Due to the increased metabolic rate, the person in need of Iodum for goiter goes on losing weight even after eating a lot. The appetite is increased, but the person does not gain weight. Another symptom to look out for prescription of Iodum as one of the best medicines for goiter is that the person feels very hot and constantly in need of cool air. Mentally, such persons are nervous, restless, hurried and impulsive, with extreme mental excitement. Iodum is also considered the most effective among medicines for goiter where tachycardia is present with a rapid, accelerated pulse rate. Palpitations may arise from the least exertion. Iodum also helps treat women with goiter where chronic amenorrhoea is present. Another set of symptoms for prescribing Iodum in goiter includes chronic diarrhea with weakness, bulging/protruding eyes, deep and hoarse voice.
Calcarea Carb is helpful in cases of goiter where the thyroid gland is enlarged but under active, with a slowed down metabolism. For using Calcarea Carb in goiter, the hallmark symptom is sluggishness of all body functions. Tiredness, slowness on the mental and physical plane are marked. There are other varying symptoms that guide use of Calcarea Carb as one of the top medicines for goiter. The first among these is obesity. A person who needs prescribing Calcarea Carb is fat, obese and goes on gaining weight even with a normal appetite. The second important symptom is chilliness with marked intolerance to cold. Another major symptom pertains to goiter in women: women suffering from goiter having profuse and prolonged menstrual cycles are ideal candidates for using Calcarea Carb. Persons who need Calcarea Carb usually suffer chronic constipation as well. The constitutional symptoms that are important to look out for include profuse sweating over the scalp, craving for eggs and indigestible things such as chalk, lime and pencils, and aversion to fatty food.
Spongia is highly recommended among medicines for goiter where the thyroid gland is much swollen and enlarged. The chin, too, swells along with the thyroid gland. Applying pressure on the thyroid gland causes pain in such cases. Spongia is also one of the most helpful medicines for goiter with suffocate episodes appearing from time to time. Dry, tickling cough in goiter patients can also be managed well with medicine Spongia.
Natrum Mur is rated among the most effective constitutional medicines for goiter. If selected as per unique constitutional symptoms, Natrum Mur holds great promise of recovery for goiter patients. Natrum Mur works best in reserved, introvert personalities that are prone to depression, weeping spells and feelings of loneliness. Irritability, restlessness and nervousness are high among such subjects. Physically, they appear emaciated, with the neck showing maximum thinning. Excessive exhaustion and weakness accompanies the condition. The eyes also show protrusion. Natrum Mur is quite successful in dealing with tachycardia and palpitations due to goiter as well. Palpitations are violent, shaking the whole body and they get worse with emotions or exertion. In women with goiter, Natrum Mur works as one of the most reliable medicines for goiter and can help regulate irregular periods. It must be noted, however, that most people prescribed Natrum Mur show marked intolerance to heat and have trouble tolerating the sun. Extra craving for salt may also be felt by persons who need Natrum Mur for goiter treatment.
Fucus Vesiculosus is a highly effective remedy for goiter. It yields excellent results in obese persons suffering from enlarged thyroid gland (goiter). Fucus Vesiculosus is also one of the most effective medicines for goiter of non-toxic nature.
Lycopus is recommended for toxic goiter. Lycopus can be used in goiter patients who show protruding eyeballs with heart involvement. Breathlessness and inability to exert in any kind of work also hint at Lycopus as the most effective medicines for goiter with these symptoms.
There is enlargement of glands with softness. Cannot lies on right side because of palpitation is a leading symptom of this remedy.
Conium Maculatum is a very effective remedy for goiter patients who are very depressed and do not take any interest in work. The patient gets irritated easily and suffers from weakness of memory. This medicine works well for patients who experience trembling in hands along with perspiration on hands. Conium Maculatum is also a useful Homeopathic cure for menstrual problems faced by women due to Hyperthyroidism where the menses appear late and that too for a short time and are very scanty in nature.
Lapis albus is effective for goiter when goiter with burning and stinging pain breasts, stomach and uterus is present. Scrofulous enlargement of glands. Glands have a certain elasticity and pliability.
Lycopodium Clavatum for swelling of thyroid gland on the right side. The part is tense, smooth, having a shining appearance with feeling of constriction in tumor although not very large. The patient prefers hot food and drinks and desires sweets.
It acts upon thyroid gland. Exophthalmic goitre, with increased heart’s rate and sweating.
Thyroid produces anemia, emaciation, muscular weakness, sweating, headache, nervous tremor of face and limbs, tingling sensations, paralysis. Heart rate increased, exophthalmos and dilation of pupils. Thyroid weakness causes decided craving for large amount of sweets. Eyeballs prominent. Face flushed. Tongue thickly coated. Fullness and heat. Bad taste in mouth. Irritable, worse least opposition.
Great debility caused by summer heat; chronic effects of sunstroke; exhaustion; anemic; milky, watery skin; very weak ankles, are all peculiar Natrum carbonicum conditions. Mental weakness and depression; worries; very sensitive to noise; colds, change of weather. Anxious and restless during thunderstorm; worse from music. marked gayety. Sensitive to presence of certain individuals. Skin inclination to perspire easily, or dry, rough, cracked skin. Eruption on finger-tips, knuckles and toes. Vesicular eruption in patches and circles. Great weakness of limbs, especially in morning.