Heal Yourself At Home
GSE Thyroid Disorders and their Causes

Thyroid Disorders - Goiter

What is a goiter?

A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland.   A normal gland weighing ~1/2 oz can increase up to ~2 pounds. The whole gland can enlarge (called diffuse goiter) or there can be one or more small nodules. Enlargement is not due to physical inflammation, but is a thick tissue growth caused by the presence of chronic or agressive thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH); this may occur for a variety of reasons, including, for example,  iodine deficiency, pregnancy, inflammatory thyroid damage or having diagnosed (or undiagnosed) Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Most nodules (lumps) are cysts filled with fluid, called cystic nodules); nodules can also contain the stored form of thyroid hormones, collectively called colloid; solid nodules have minimal fluid or colloid.


A goiter can be associated with:

•  Hyperthroidism / An overactive thyroid  / Excessive thyroid hormones

•  Hypothroidism /An underactive thyroid  /  Insufficient thyroid hormones

•  Normal thyroid hormone levels

Physical characteristics of a goiter can be:

•  Symmetrical  or Nodules or enlargement are in just one part of the gland

•  Diffuse (spread out, generalized, smooth, as in Grave's disease) or solitary (if only a small area is enlarged; commonly benign cysts, nodules)

•  Nodules are benign or malignant (cells in nodule have the ability to spread outside the thyroid gland)


Non-toxic, toxic or endemic goiter?

Non-toxic Goiter

•  Diffuse (spread out) or Nodular (i.e. lumps; 1 = solitary thyroid nodule / more than 1 = multinodular goiter)

•  Thyroid hormone production is normal

•  Non-cancerous

•  Not associated with Hyperthroidism,  Hypothroidism, or inflammation


•  Diffuse Toxic Goiter (a.k.a. Graves Disease or exophthalmic goiter)  (involves autoimmune-antibodies / auto-antibodies)   /  Toxic Nodular Goiter (not an autoimmune disease);

•   Excessive secretion of thyroid hormones;

•  Causes signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism;

Endemic Goiter (Goitrous hyperthyroidism)

•  Inability to make sufficient hormones;

•  Associated with Hypothroidism


A goiter is seen as a swelling at the front base of the neck

The enlarged thryroid compresses the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus.    This can lead to such symptoms as:

✔ Coughing;

✔ Waking up with the feeling of being unable to breathe;

✔ Sensation of food stuck in upper throat


A goiter could occur as a result of:

•   Inadequate iodide levels.   This being the most common cause of goiter worldwide, particularly prevalent in areas of iodine-deficient soil; referred to as ENDEMIC goiter,

•   Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.    An autoimmune thyroiditis; anti-thyroid antibodies attack thyroid causing damage/inflammation leading to hypothyroidism

•   Ord's thyroiditis.    Seen particularly in Europe; an atrophic form of autoimmune thyroiditis;

•    Increase in thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).   This is in response to a problem with usual/normal thyroid hormone production;   

•   Malfunctioning/damaged/ inflamed thyroid.   Damage possibly results from insufficient  iodine intake;

•   Excessive presence of goitrogens.   These can block thyroid access to iodine needed for TH production and create unused thyroglobulin (Tg);

•   Hypothyroidism.    Since low hormone levels stimulate TH production;

•    Some drugs.    Lithium inhibits release of TH; amiodarone may induce inflammatory damage to thyroid;

•   Thyroid Cancers / Benign tumors (nodules).   May cause a multinodular goiter (solid or fluid-filled lumps, called nodules);

•    Pregnancy.   The pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) may cause slight thyroid enlargement;

•    Graves Disease / Diffuse Toxic goiter.   Autoimmune disease stimulates thyroid to be overactive;

•    Too much iodine ???;  Currently researching this.

Risk Factors

Anyone from birth onwards can have goiters.   Some common risk factors are:

•    A lack of iodine

•    Being female / Pregnancy / Menopause

•    Age > 40

•    Family history of autoimmune disease

•    Radiation exposure.    Medical radiation to neck/chest area or general exposure from nuclear sources

•    Certain medications.    The heart drug amiodarone (e.g. Pacerone, Cordarone), lithium (e.g. Lithobid)

side bar
DISCLAIMER: The content on this website is intended for informational, and educational purposes only and not as a substitute for the medical advice, treatment or diagnosis of a licensed health professional. The author of this website is a researcher, not a health professional, and shall in no event be held liable to any party for any direct, indirect, special, incidental, punitive or other damages arising from any use of the content of this website. Any references to health benefits of specifically named products on this site are this website author's sole opinion and are not approved or supported by their manufacturers or distributors. COPYRIGHT 2009-2019