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Swollen Thyroid

What is a Swollen Thyroid?

Literally, a swollen thyroid means it is beyond its normal size. This condition is more commonly known as goiter.


A little anatomy of the thyroid and its function would be helpful in grasping a better understanding of the condition. The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck, and it functions in producing hormones that are important in regulating the function of each cell in the body.

When the thyroid hormone works too much or too little in the body, both have an impact on the person’s health. The thyroid hormone plays an essential role in the body’s metabolism. Overproduction of this hormone can result to feelings of nervousness and faster heart rate while low levels of this hormone can slow down the metabolism.

Swollen Thyroid Symptoms

The following symptoms are quite common in people who have enlarged thyroid gland.

  • Rapid metabolism – this is the result of the overproduction of thyroid hormone, which is the main hormone that regulate the body’s metabolism.
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Eye sensitivity
  • Visual disturbances
  • Pain on the neck
  • Hoarse voice
  • Difficulty swallowing and breathing

Swollen Thyroid Causes

An enlarged thyroid is usually associated to different disease conditions affecting the thyroid gland, and it is important to note a few of the common ones.

Autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland

The common autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland is Graves’ disease. In this condition, the host’s own immune system attacks the thyroid gland, leading to an overproduction of the thyroid hormone thyroxine.

The increase in the hormone secondary to overstimulation of the gland causes it to swell. Another autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland is the Hashimoto’s disease however it mimics more of the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Thyroiditis

This is an inflammation of the thyroid gland caused by various conditions such as viruses, fever, medications, immune disorders, and sometimes unknown. Thyroiditis causes a temporary hypersecretion of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland and then follows a period of hyposecretion of the hormones. The symptoms usually felt are tenderness in the neck especially on the thyroid area and throat, and difficulty in sleeping leading to insomnia.

Nodules

These are lumps and bumps in the thyroid gland. A single nodule can be considered benign, but if there are quite many of them, then it can cause the gland to swell. And because of these nodules, they usually cause difficulty in swallowing and breathing, hoarse voice, or neck tenderness.

Thyroid Cancer

This is often presented as a swollen or malignant nodule on either side of the neck. It usually starts as a lump in the neck and eventually cause disturbance in the voice, breathing, and swallowing.

Swollen Thyroid Treatment

The following are the standard in the treatment of a swollen thyroid. Doctors treat the condition based on the size, the signs and symptoms, and the underlying cause experienced by each patient.

Observation

The doctor would first assess the size of the enlargement. If it is small and is not causing serious symptoms, then perhaps the doctor would advise the patient to just wait and observe, but noting the changes that may occur within a span of time.

Medications

For an inflamed thyroid, the usual medication doctors prescribed to their patients are either aspirin or corticosteroid to manage the swelling.

Surgery

If the enlargement is remarkable, surgical removal of the entire thyroid gland or just a part of it is much more recommended. This is the practical option to choose especially when the swelling already affects the person’s breathing, sleeping, and swallowing activities, or generally is already causing too much discomfort to the patient.

Iodine

Radioactive is sometimes used to manage a hyperactive thyroid gland. This iodine is taken orally and will reach the thyroid gland through the bloodstream. Once it reached the target organ, it will destroy the thyroid cells, thereby controlling its activity by diminishing the size of the gland.

Getting enough iodine at home can be done conveniently by using iodized salt and including seafood in the diet.

Too much of something is also bad enough, so it is important to regulate the amount of iodine introduced to the body. Take it in exact amount.

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