A vegetable seller was diagnosed with goitre 10 years ago, and since then, the size of the goitre has been increasing.
The distraught woman said that she has tried treating the condition with different drugs, which, obviously, didn’t work. According to her, doctors said that she needed surgery to fix it.
As a petty trader, it is obvious that she is struggling to feed her family, and, to make matters worse, many people avoid patronizing her once they notice her swollen neck. So, how to raise money for the much-needed surgery is a big challenge to her.
What is goitre?
Experts say the thyroid gland, which is located in front of the neck, produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism. When the gland becomes enlarged, it can be due to a variety of factors.
“In some cases, it may be due to deficiency of iodine, a mineral that is essential for the production of thyroid hormones,” according to a report published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
In other cases, goitre may be caused by an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. “This condition occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing inflammation and enlargement,” scientists say; noting that other possible causes of goitre include pregnancy, hormonal imbalances, and certain medications.
Also, according to experts at Penn Medicine, other causes of goiter include:
- The body’s immune system attacking the thyroid gland (autoimmune problem)
- Certain medicines (lithium, amiodarone)
- Infections (rare)
- Cigarette smoking
- Eating very large amounts of certain foods (soy, peanuts, or vegetables in the broccoli and cabbage family)
- Toxic nodular goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland that has a small growth or many growths called nodules, which produce too much thyroid hormone
Symptoms of goitre
According to the National Institutes of Health, thyroid diseases occur more commonly in women than men, in part because of the autoimmune nature of many thyroid disorders.
“Hypothyroidism, and thyroid nodules occur frequently in both pre- and postmenopausal women. Pregnancy is also associated with changes in thyroid function,” NIH says.
Thyroidologists say that the most obvious symptom of goitre is visible swelling in the neck. Depending on the size and location of the enlarged thyroid gland, this swelling may be more pronounced on one side of the neck than the other.
Other symptoms include:
Tightness or pressure in the neck: The swelling caused by goitre can put pressure on the surrounding tissues, causing a feeling of tightness or pressure in the neck.
Swallowing or breathing difficulties: In some cases, the enlarged thyroid gland may press against the windpipe or oesophagus, causing difficulty in swallowing or breathing.
Hoarseness or voice changes: If the goitre is affecting the vocal cords, it may cause hoarseness or changes in the voice.
Thyroid hormone imbalances: Goitre can sometimes cause an overactive or under-active thyroid gland, leading to symptoms such as weight changes, fatigue, anxiety, and hair loss.
Performing a self-examination for goitre is something you can do easily at home. Just follow these steps:
• Stand in front of a mirror and slightly tilt your head back to expose your neck.
• Look closely at the area below your Adam’s apple, where the thyroid gland is located, to check if there is any visible enlargement or swelling.
• Now, take a sip of water and observe the area as you swallow; you may notice any bulging or protrusion in the neck region.
• Additionally, use your fingers to feel for any lumps or nodules around the thyroid gland by running them along the sides of your neck.
If you find something abnormal during this self-examination, consult a doctor for further evaluation and diagnosis. Your doctor may perform a physical examination to feel the size and shape of your thyroid gland and may also order blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels.
How is goitre treated?
Physicians say the treatment for goitre depends on the underlying cause of the condition. If the goitre is caused by an iodine deficiency, your doctor may recommend dietary changes or iodine supplements to help restore normal thyroid function.
If the goitre is caused by an autoimmune disorder, you will need medications that reduce inflammation and regulate thyroid hormone levels.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. This is typically only recommended if the goitre is causing severe discomfort or if there is a risk of cancer, experts say.
How to prevent goitre
According to online portal, Cleveland Clinics, a goiter caused by iodine deficiency (simple goiter) is generally the only type of goiter you can prevent.
“Consuming a diet that includes fish, dairy and a healthy amount of iodized table salt prevents these types of goiters,” Cleveland Clinic says.
It, however, noted that iodine supplements and other supplements are generally not recommended and may do more harm than good.
Goitre is still a significant health problem for women in many parts of the world, and most of them lack access to effective treatment and preventive measures.
Experts advise the government to make treatment accessible and affordable for patients, while members of the public should be sensitized to preventive measures.