Goitre (also commonly spelt as goiter) can be described as an affliction in which the thyroid gland grows larger than what is considered normal. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland, located at the back of your neck, just beneath the Adams apple. Goiter does not usually trigger off any pain, but it can lead to a severe cough and other throat problems, which makes it difficult for you to swallow or even breathe. Goiter swelling can be of different sizes, ranging from small to large and the larger the size of the goiter, the more severe the symptoms are likely to be.
There are different kinds of goiter and the symptoms that are evident may vary, based on the type you are suffering from. Some of the common goiter types include colloid or endemic goiter, sporadic or non-toxic goiter, toxic goiter, myxedema goiter and congenital goiter. However, these types are broadly divided into two main types of goiter, which include diffuse goiter and nodular goiter.
Although goiter can affect just about anyone, it is more common in those who are over the age of 50. Since women are more prone to thyroid disorders than men are, they are also more likely to suffer from goiter. Though the reasons are not very clear, it has been seen that women are more likely to get goiter during pregnancy or menopause. Studies also indicate that this problem is more prevalent in people who have a family history of autoimmune diseases. Individuals on certain medication or undergoing radiation therapy for specific health conditions are also quite susceptible to goiter.
It may be a bit difficult to recognize goiter, as the signs and symptoms associated with it may not be evident in all cases. In order to confirm it you may need to visit a doctor and go through a proper diagnosis. At times, the doctor may be able to confirm the exact problem, just by feeling your neck and conducting a physical exam. However, there are several patients who have to go through tests like a hormone test, an antibody test, an ultrasonography, a thyroid scan or a biopsy for an accurate analysis.
Fortunately, it is possible to cure goiter, using a combination of home treatments or conventional medication. In fact, in many cases, it may not even be necessary to treat goiter, especially if the swelling is small and unnoticeable, as it goes away on its own.
Symptoms of Goitre
It is possible for you to have goiter – a swelling in the thyroid gland around your neck, without any other accompanying signs and symptoms. However, there are many people who have experienced other symptoms for this affliction. Given below, are some of the most common goiter symptoms:
- Change in the voice, usually in the form of hoarseness
- Constricted or tight sensation in the throat and the neck
- Difficulty in breathing, mainly while drawing breath in
- Discomfort in the throat while swallowing
- Emotional outbursts, depression or mood swings
- Swelling at the base of the neck, which may be visible at all times, especially while craning the neck, perhaps to shave or apply makeup
- Unexplained weight loss or perhaps even weight gain
- Wheezing problems
If the goiter is fairly small, you may not notice any of these symptoms. The only sign in such instances is a small swelling around the neck or the throat. However, medium to large goiters can trigger off the other symptoms that have been mentioned above. Difficulties in swallowing and breathing are usually present only if the goiter is quite big. It is quite rare to experience pain, while suffering from goiter.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to mistake goiter for other throat conditions. This is because symptoms like coughing, hoarseness, wheezing, swelling, throat constriction and so on, are not exclusive to goiter, but can occur in case of any kind of infection, inflammation or disease. Therefore, in case you notice any of them, it would be best to consult a doctor and identify what the exact cause of the problem.
Causes of Goitre
Contrary to what many people believe goiter does not really mean that the thyroid gland is not functioning properly. There are several different factors that could cause you to suffer from the swelling. Given below are some of the most common causes for goiter:
- Deficiency of Iodine: An adequate amount of iodine is absolutely essential for the production of the thyroid hormones. Iodine is usually found in seawater as well as in the soil around coastal areas. It has been seen that those who live inland or at high elevations usually suffer from the deficiency of iodine. In an effort to absorb more iodine from the body, the thyroid gland may get enlarged.
- Graves Disease: An autoimmune health condition known as Grave’s disease has been known to cause the thyroid gland in the neck to swell. This occurs because this condition makes the thyroid glands produce an excessive amount of hormones.
- Hashimoto’s Disease: This is an autoimmune disorder, in which your thyroid gland produces a small amount of hormones, than is required. The thyroid gland works along with the other glands in the body, such as the pituitary glands, which produces the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Hashimotos disease causes the pituitary gland to detect a low level of thyroid hormones in the body, which increase the production of TSH. This in turn causes the thyroid gland to swell, leading to goiter.
- Inflammation: An inflammatory condition known as thyroiditis causes pain and swelling in the thyroid glands, thereby leading to goiter.
- Thyroid Cancer: This is not a very common cause, but it can lead to goiter. Cancer in the thyroid is usually marked by swelling or enlargement on one side of the thyroid.
Some of the other causes of goiter can also include multi-nodular goiter, pregnancy and solitary thyroid nodules.
Remedies for Goitre
Fortunately, goiter can be treated with the help of medication as well as simple home remedies. There are several factors that influence the treatment, such as the size of the goiter, the exact causes, the symptoms that are present, as well as the patients age and overall health condition. In extreme cases, the only course of treatment may include surgery, but if the causes are fairly mild then you may be advised to take the required medication. However, if the goiter is not serious, then you can use simple home remedies to deal with it. Given below are some of the most common home remedies for goiter:
- Perform a few neck stretches or other similar exercises that are good for the health of the thyroid gland. Many health and fitness experts aerobic exercises as well as jogging for thyroid and goiter problems
- Dandelion leaves are usually very effective in bringing down the swelling caused by goiter. Warm a few dandelion leaves in a small amount of refined butter and apply them directly on to the swollen area, while they are still warm. Repeat this exercise every day, for around 2 weeks or so.
- Prepare a paste from sorrel leaves and add a small amount of olive oil to it. Apply this paste on to the swelling and leave it on for a few minutes or so.
- Make a paste from watercress and spread it over the neck region, where the swelling is prevalent. This should bring the swelling down considerably.
There are a few alternate healers who recommend the use of massage therapy for treating goiter. While some people have also seen relief from goiter after trying techniques like reflexology and acupuncture, there are no clinical studies to prove the effectiveness of such techniques.
Diet for Goitre
In order to speed up the treatment of goiter, it is best for you to follow the diet recommended by your health care provider, who may advise you to go on a juice fast for around 3 or 4 days. During this time you can have any homemade fruit and vegetable juice, which is devoid of too much sugar or preservatives. After the 4th day you can resume your normal diet, but it is best to eat light foods, till the problem is cured. However, there are some food items that are recommended for treating goiter faster, such as:
- Oats, seafood, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, garlic, whole rice, strawberries, onions, guavas, eggs (yolk) and citric fruits, as they are high in iron
- Pineapples or pineapple juice
- Bananas, as they help stimulate the thyroid
- Vitamin A rich foods, like sweet potatoes, cayenne, paprika, chili powder, red pepper, liver pate, leafy greens, carrots, dried herbs, butternut squash, cantaloupe, dried apricot, lettuce, papayas, peaches, mangoes, tomatoes, green peas and milk
- Foods that are high in Vitamin B like meat, dairy products, soy bean, cereals, whole grains, beans, pulses, tuna, salmon, herring, nuts, seeds, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, corn, okra, parsnips, grapes, raspberries, watermelons, guavas, dates, grapefruit and avocadoes to name a few.
In order to follow a proper diet for goiter, you not only need to include the right foods, but also may need to change your eating habits a bit. For starters, instead of eating 3 square meals a day, it is better to have 5 or 6 smaller meals, spaced at frequent intervals. At no time should you skip a meal, especially breakfast, which is not only the most important meal of the day, but also should be the most substantial.
Before you make any changes to your existing diet, it is important to consult a doctor and get his/her approval, especially if you are elderly or are suffering from a preexisting medical condition.
Suggestion for Goitre
Mild to moderate cases of goiter usually get resolved within a period of two weeks, assuming that there are no major complications. Therefore, in case the symptoms last for a longer period of time, or if they seem to get worse, in spite of using home remedies, then you need to get in touch with your health care provider, without any delay.
Since many medicines have been known to cause goiter, you need to make a note of all the medication you take as well as their doses and keep the doctor informed about this. In case it is determined that the medication is the factor causing goiter, your doctor may need to change your medication. However, never make any changes to the medicines you are taking, unless you have been asked to do so, by your doctor.