Goiter: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention


What is golter?

A goiter or goitre is a swelling or large mass on the throat that results from abnormal growth of a gland called the thyroid.

It is one of the most common thyroid disorders.

Goiters are often harmless but symptoms can occur, and treatment may be required depending on the size and type of goiter.

The thyroid gland is situated in front of the windpipe and is responsible for producing and secreting hormones that regulate growth and metabolism.

Causes of goiter

Most goiters is caused by lack of iodine in the diet. Also, a lack of iodine in a pregnant woman’s diet sometimes causes babies to die or born mentally slow and maybe deaf (is called cretinism). This can happen even though the mother does not have a goiter.

As iodine is less commonly found in plants, vegan diets may lack sufficient iodine. This is less of a problem for vegans who live in countries such as the United States that add iodine to salt.

Dietary iodine is found in:

Other causes

Less common causes of goiter include the following:

  • Smoking: Thiocyanate in tobacco smoke interferes with iodine absorption.
  • Hormonal changes: Pregnancy, puberty, and menopause can affect thyroid function.
  • Thyroiditis: Inflammation caused by infection, for example, can lead to goiter.
  • Lithium: This psychiatric drug can interfere with thyroid function.
  • Overconsumption of iodine: Too much iodine can cause a goiter.
  • Radiation therapy: This can trigger a swollen thyroid, particularly when administered to the neck.

Signs and Symptoms of goiter

The degree of swelling and the severity of symptoms produced by the goiter depends on the individual.

Most goiters have no symptoms. But symptoms do occur, the following are most common:

  • throat symptoms of tightness, cough, and hoarseness
  • trouble swallowing
  • in severe cases, difficulty breathing, possibly with a high-pitch sound

Other symptoms may be present because of the underlying cause of the goiter, but they are not because of the goiter itself. For example, an overactive thyroid can cause symptoms such as:

  • nervousness
  • palpitations
  • hyperactivity
  • increased sweating
  • heat hypersensitivity
  • fatigue
  • increased appetite
  • hair loss
  • weight loss

In cases where goiter is a result of hypothyroidism, the underactive thyroid can cause symptoms such as:

  • cold intolerance
  • constipation
  • forgetfulness
  • personality changes
  • hair loss
  • weight gain

Aside from the swelling itself, many people with goiter present no symptoms or signs at all.

Treatment and Prevention goiter

Everyone that wants to live healthy should use iodized salt. This also prevents people in areas where goiters do occur and will help many goiters go away. (Old, hard goiters can only be removed by surgery, but this is not usually necessary.)

  1.  If it is not possible to get iodized salt, use a tincture of iodine.
  2. Put 1 drop in a glass of water each day and drink. Be careful. Too much tincture of iodine is poisonous.
  3. Drink only 1 drop a day keep the bottle where children can not reach it. Iodized salt is much safer.

Most home cures for goiter is not very effective and may not do any good. However, eating crab and other seafood can do some good because they contain iodine. Mixing a little seaweed with food also adds iodine. But it is very important and the easiest way is to use iodized salt.

Avoid eating cassava if you are in area where goiters are common.


In the  case of thyroid or hypothyroidism, treatment is usually synthetic replacement of thyroid hormone.

The dosage of synthetic thyroxine (T4) is gradually increased until measurements indicate normal thyroid function has been restored.


In goiters caused by overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism, treatment aims to counter the excess hormone production. For instance, anti-thyroid drugs, such as thionamide drugs, gradually reduce excessive hormone levels.

Radioactive iodine to decrease thyroid function and stop hormone production is also a treatment option for hyperthyroidism.

Goiter surgery

Surgery to reduce the size of swelling if there is difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Thyroidectomies are performed under general anesthetic to remove part of the thyroid gland.

Types of Goiter

There are several main types of goiter:

  • Diffuse smooth goiter: This occurs when the entire thyroid swells.
  • Nodular goiter: A lump develops on the thyroid. These are extremely common. If any lumps develop, this is known as multinodular goiter.
  • Retrosternal goiter: This type of goiter can grow behind the breastbone. This can constrict the windpipe, neck veins, esophagus, and sometimes requires surgery.

The type of goiter will dictate how it is treated and the symptoms that may show.

Prevention of goiter

  1. Never use regular salt
  2. Always use iodized salt

If a person with a goiter tremble a lot, is very nervous, and has eyes that bulge out, this may be a different kind of goiter (toxic goiter). Seek medical advice immediately.


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Hershman, J. (2016, July 16). Overview of thyroid function – endocrine and metabolic disorders. 

Vanderpump, M. (2011). The epidemiology of thyroid disease. British Medical Bulletin99(1), 39-51. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bmb/ldr030


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Goiter: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
Isreal Olabanji DST RNhttps://www.healthsoothe.com
Am Isreal olabanji a dental assistant and public health professionals and has years of experience in assisting the dentist with all sorts of dental issues. We regularly post timely and trustworthy medical information and news. My goal is to enlighten everyone in all aspects of health towards participating in fitness, Dental care, healthy recipes, child health, obstetrics, and more.
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