Primary Causes of an Enlarged Thyroid – 3 FAQs
You may have heard of a condition known as an enlarged thyroid. In fact, you may suspect that you or someone you know has this condition. This article explores the nature of this organ, the causes of an enlarged thyroid, and 3 frequency-asked questions about this condition.
What Your Thyroid Does for Your Body
Your thyroid is part of your body’s endocrine system, a network of glands that release important hormones for the regulation of normal bodily functions. It is a small organ less than an ounce in weight (under normal conditions) and divided into two halves or lobes. The lobes are joined by a band of tissue called an isthmus.
The thyroid’s job is to convert iodine into thyroid hormones, known as T3 and T4. These hormones control metabolism, the conversion of oxygen and calories into energy. Every cell in the body is dependent upon the thyroid hormone for its normal functioning.
This organ’s function is activated by the pituitary gland, found at the base of the brain. When the body’s thyroid hormone gets too low, the pituitary gland releases TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to tell the thyroid to produce more T3 and T4.
Causes of an Enlarged Thyroid: 3 FAQs
Some people develop an enlarged thyroid gland, a condition also known as goiter. When it becomes enlarged, the thyroid can be seen from the outside as a mass inside the neck.
In some cases, goiter results in the overproduction of thyroid hormone and/or becomes malignant. In other cases (non-toxic goiter), the thyroid becomes enlarged but there is no over-production of the hormone.
Here are 3 frequently-asked questions about the causes of this condition:
1. What causes an enlarged thyroid? There are a number of possible causes of goiter, or enlarged thyroid. Only your doctor can tell you for sure what is causing your condition.
2. Can a diet deficient in iodine cause enlarged thyroid? Technically, someone who does not eat enough iodine in their diet can experience an enlarged thyroid. However, given that iodine is found in abundance in many common foods, this is usually not the cause of goiter.
3. What else can cause an enlarged thyroid? The more common cause is a defect in the synthesis of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that is released by the pituitary gland in the brain.
If your thyroid problem is small or moderate-sized, it can be treated with thyroid hormone. This is taken as a pill. This is an effect treatment because the thyroid hormone supplied in the pill causes the pituitary to make less TSH, which will result in the stabilization of the thyroid gland. While this will not decrease the size of the thyroid, it will stop it from growing.
More commonly, a doctor will recommend the removal of the parts of the thyroid that are causing compression in other parts of the neck, such as the trachea or esophagus. Compression can lead to frequent coughing, a change in the voice, or nighttime choking.
If the goiter is determined to be malignant, it will almost certainly be recommended for removal via surgery. Fortunately, less than 5% of enlarged thyroids are malignant.