A goiter is defined as an enlarged thyroid gland that causes the swelling of the neck. Goiters are mostly harmless but may require treatment according to the type and size of the goiter. Goiters are caused by an autoimmune disease in developed countries. Physical examination is used to diagnose goiters, but scans and thyroid blood tests may be used too.

The thyroid gland is located in front of the trachea and functions to produce and secrete hormones that control metabolism and growth.

In most cases, goiters are classified as simple where there is no inflammation or detriment to the thyroid glands hence no symptoms. A small amount of swelling may be evident in some people, while others have considerable swelling that causes the breathing process by constricting the windpipe.

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Most goiters show no symptoms and furthermore; the severity of symptoms and degree of swelling depends on the individual. When symptoms occur, the most commons are:

  • Trouble during swallowing.
  • Trouble breathing, with a possible high-pitch sound.
  • Cough, hoarseness, and tightness symptoms in the throat.

People with goiter might show other symptoms due to the underlying cause of the goiter, which might be due to the goiter itself. For instance, an overactive thyroid causes:

  • Palpitations.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Nervousness.
  • Weight loss.
  • Tiredness.
  • Loss of hair.
  • Heat hypersensitivity.

Goiters can also be caused by hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), where symptoms below would be shown:

  • Forgetfulness.
  • Constipation.
  • Changes in personality.
  • Cold intolerance.
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of hair.

Most people suffering from goiter shown no signs and symptoms at all besides swelling itself.


Iodine deficiency:

Insufficient iodine is the major cause of goiter globally, but such cases are rare in economically developed countries where iodine is added to salt for consumption purposes.

Iodine is not found in most soils; therefore, it is less commonly found in plants. Dietary iodine is mostly present in seafood, cow milk, and plants growing in iodine enriched soils.

Autoimmune disease:

Goiter in developed countries is commonly caused by autoimmune disease. Hypothyroidism, an underactive goiter, causes goiter since the gland produces too little thyroid hormone; thus, further stimulation produces excessive thyroid hormone causing the swelling.

This is in most cases from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a condition where an individual’s immune system attacks itself causing inflammation of the thyroid gland.


An overactive thyroid gland is also one of the causes of a goiter. An autoimmune disorder called Grave’s disease, causes the immune system to attack its own thyroid gland producing too much thyroid hormone leading to inflammation.

Other causes of goiter include.

  • Hormonal changes
  • Smoking
  • Overconsumption of iodine
  • Radiation therapy
  • Lithium.
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