A Goitre is an enlarged thyroid gland. It means that all the thyroid gland is swollen or enlarged, or one or more swellings or lumps develop in parts of the thyroid. The thyroid gland is in the lower part of the front of the neck. It lies just in front of the windpipe (trachea). It has a right and left lobe which are connected together by a narrow band of thyroid tissue. It is roughly the shape of a butterfly. You cannot usually see or feel a normal thyroid gland. If the thyroid enlarges, it causes a swelling in the neck which you can see - a Goitre.
When you have a goitre, a doctor will usually do some blood tests to check if you are making too much or too little thyroxine or T3. Blood tests may also help to find out the cause of some goitres.
Other tests may be done to find out the cause of the goitre.
• An ultrasound scan of the thyroid. This may be done if you have a single nodule. An ultrasound scan is a safe and painless test which uses sound waves to create images of organs and structures inside your body. It can tell if a nodule is a cyst or a solid lump.
• A small piece of tissue (a biopsy) may be taken from a nodule to look at under the microscope. The biopsy is done by inserting a thin needle into the nodule. It is a simple and safe procedure.
• A radioactive iodine scan or similar test. This is not done routinely but may be done to see if any nodules are making too much thyroxine or T3. (The radioiodine concentrates in tissue that makes thyroid hormones.)
• In some situations a chest X-ray is done if it is suspected that a goitre extends downwards into the chest.
Treatment depends on the cause, the size of the Goitre, and whether it is causing symptoms.
In many cases there are no symptoms apart from the appearance of a swelling in the neck. The size of a Goitre can range from very small and barely noticeable, to very large.
• Most Goitres are painless. However, an inflamed thyroid (thyroiditis) can be painful.
• If your thyroid makes too much or too little Thyroxine or T3, this can cause a range of symptoms. 'Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)' and 'Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)'.
• A large goitre may press on the windpipe or the gullet (oesophagus). This may cause difficulty with breathing or with swallowing.