A goitre refers to a generalised swelling of the thyroid gland. It may be a smooth, homogenous enlargement, or a lumpy, nodular enlargement (referred to as multi-nodular goitre).
The vast majority of goitre causes are benign, and treatment may not be necessary. These include physiological enlargement (e.g. during pregnancy), dietary (common in coastal and mountainous area where iodine deficiency may exist), and thyroiditis (e.g. Graves' disease or Hashimotos thyroiditis - which are forms of auto-immune thyroid inflammation).
Your doctor will assess any relevant medical history related to the thyroid, and perform a detailed head & neck examination including an endoscopic examination of throat (as the thyroid gland is closely related to the voice box). Investigations may include blood tests, an ultrasound or CT scan of the thyroid, and occasionally a needle biopsy.
Treatment involves an endocrinologist, to explore the options of medical management of your thyroid condition. Surgery is considered in certain situations:
- Size - if the thyroid gland is enlarged and compressing the airway or swallowing passage
- Concern for cancer - if suspicious nodules exist, partial or complete removal of the thyroid gland may be recommended
- Cosmesis - if the swollen gland adversely affects the appearance of the neck
- Chemical imbalance - If medications are unable to control thyroid gland overactivity, or if radio-iodine treatment is not suitable, surgery may be an option.