Causes and Signs of an Enlarged Thyroid – Health Topics, Men’s Health, Women’s Health – Hackensack Meridian Health

Posted: February 11, 2021 at 7:55 am

February 8, 2021

Theres a good reason medical checkups typically include a quick but gentle pat-down of your neck area by health care providers. Among other conditions, theyre looking for a goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland that may spell health problems but can also be harmless.

Goiters affect about 16 percent of people worldwide, ranging from just under 5 percent in the United States to 28.3 percent in Africa, according to the National Institutes of Health. But the most common cause of goiters globallya lack of the nutrient iodineisnt a significant issue in the U.S., where iodized salt is routinely used.

In our country, many goiters are idiopathic, meaning we dont know the reason why they occur, says Alexander Shifrin, M.D., an endocrine surgeon at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Still, various risk factors can make it more likely that youll develop a goiter. These include:

Located at the base of the neck, the thyroid produces hormones that regulate a variety of crucial bodily functions, ranging from helping us keep warm and use energy to fueling proper function of organs and muscles. The development of a goiter doesnt mean the gland isnt working. But this enlargement, which can happen slowly or quickly, may also signal the thyroid is making too much or too little hormone.

What signs of a goiter should you watch for? Dr. Shifrin says size matters. Watch for an enlargement of the thyroid, he says, including swelling at the base of your neck. Every enlarged gland should be checked for cancer.

According to the American Thyroid Association, you should also watch for these signs:

Most goiters arent cancerous, Dr. Shifrin says, but you should still have it checked by your primary physician or an endocrine specialist. Blood tests alone cant usually determine if thyroid cancer is present. Ninety percent of thyroid cancers are detected by palpating the gland and a thyroid ultrasound, Dr. Shifrin says.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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Causes and Signs of an Enlarged Thyroid - Health Topics, Men's Health, Women's Health - Hackensack Meridian Health

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