Approximately 5% of Americans have a goiter, an issue that occurs when the thyroid gland becomes enlarged.
This gland sits at the base of your neck, below your Adam’s apple, and makes hormones involved in many important bodily functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. Because of this, it’s essential to see a specialist to determine the cause of the enlargement in case you need treatment.
Dr. Vandana Kumra uses state-of-the-art techniques to diagnose and treat neck masses at her ear, nose, and throat practice in New York City. If you have a goiter, here’s what could be causing your symptoms.
First, it’s important to note that not all goiters are the same. Sometimes, the entire thyroid becomes enlarged, while others describe one or more lumps — or nodules — in the thyroid. Similarly, some goiters come with changes in thyroid hormone production, and others don’t.
Goiter symptoms can also vary from person to person. In some cases, there’s no sign of a problem at all. However, when they do arise, they often include:
- Swelling below the Adam’s apple
- Tightness in the throat
- A horse or scratchy voice
- Swelling in the neck vein
- Dizziness when raising your arms above your head
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Coughing or wheezing
Since some goiters involve changes in thyroid production, it’s also possible to have symptoms of too little or too much thyroid hormone in your system.
Causes of goiters
Goiters can develop for a variety of reasons. Worldwide, they form most frequently because of lack of iodine in the diet. However, this cause is fairly uncommon in the United States because iodine gets added to table salt.
In addition to iodine deficiency, a goiter can also develop in response to hormone production, certain medical conditions, or medications, including:
- Graves’ disease
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Radiation exposure, especially to the neck or chest
- Drugs, like lithium
Thyroid nodules and cancer can also cause goiters.
Diagnosing and treating a goiter
Dr. Kumra diagnoses goiters by carefully evaluating and examining your neck. She could also perform an endoscopy to assess the inside of your throat.
During endoscopy, Dr. Kumra passes a thin scope with a light and tiny camera down your throat. This device captures images in real time that she can see on a monitor. If she notices anything unusual, Dr. Kumra can also take a small sample for testing.
Additional goiter testing might include:
- Blood tests to measure thyroid function
- Antibody tests to look for autoimmune disorders, like Graves’ and Hashimoto’s disease
- Ultrasonography to detect nodules and evaluate thyroid size
- Radioactive iodine uptake to assess thyroid function
- Fine-needle aspiration biopsy to look for cancerous cells
After reaching a diagnosis, Dr. Kumra can create a treatment strategy based on your individual needs. In some cases, this might include waiting and watching your goiter and thyroid function through regular checkups. However, some conditions require medications, surgery, or radioactive iodine treatment.
Do you have a goiter? Don’t ignore this neck mass. Schedule a consultation with Vandana Kumra, MD, to determine the most appropriate treatment strategy by calling 646-859-6136 or booking online today.