Through the hormones thyroid gland produces, the thyroid gland influences almost all of the metabolic processes in body. Thyroid disorders can range from thyroid enlargement (goiter) to life-threatening cancer. Goiter is a non-cancerous thyroid gland enlargement. This disorder can affect anyone at any age, however, goiters are more common after the age of 40 and in women, who are more likely to have thyroid disorders.
Your doctor will feel your neck area and have you swallow during a routine physical exam. Blood tests will reveal the levels of thyroid hormone, TSH, and antibodies in your bloodstream. An ultrasound of the thyroid can check for swelling or nodules.
Treatment depends on the size of the goiter, your symptoms and the underlying cause. You can take small doses of iodine if goiter is the result of iodine deficiency. Radioactive iodine can shrink the thyroid gland. Surgery will remove all or part of the gland. Although goiters aren’t usually a cause for concern, they can cause serious complications if they’re left untreated. These complications can include difficulty breathing and swallowing, heart problems and brittle bones.