A swollen thyroid, also more commonly referred to as a goiter, is a noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid and it can be caused by a number of conditions. The most common cause of a swollen thyroid is an iodine deficiency. Since iodine has been added to table salt, an iodine deficiency is rare is America. In the U.S. a goiter is usually caused by hypothyroidism. While this condition often occurs more frequently in parts of the world where iodine is not readily available, gland enlargement can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender.
Who is at Risk for a Swollen Thyroid?
While it’s possible for anyone to get a swollen thyroid, it’s more common in women after the age of forty. This is because women are more likely to have a thyroid disorder. Other risk factors for goiters include pregnancy, the use of certain thyroid medications, a family history of thyroid disorders and exposure to radiation.
If the swollen gland is not very large, you may not experience any symptoms. As the goiter grows in size it can cause a number of symptoms. These symptoms include wheezing or coughing, tightness in the neck, swelling of the neck, difficulty breathing and trouble speaking.
If you suspect you have a goiter it’s important to make an appointment with your family doctor. During your visit your doctor will feel your neck and ask you to swallow. They will also run some blood tests which will determine the level of thyroid hormones in your body. These tests can help to diagnose the underlying condition that is causing the gland to become inflamed and swollen.