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Women's Health

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Understanding Goiter -- Treatment

How Do I Know if I Have a Goiter?

A goiter may be large enough for you to see or to feel with your hand, or it may remain unnoticed until a doctor discovers it, perhaps during a routine exam.

In any case, the first step is to determine whether the goiter is a symptom of another thyroid condition.

Understanding Goiter

Find out more about goiter:

Basics

Symptoms

Treatment

An ultrasound of the thyroid gland may help to determine the size of the gland and the presence of nodules.

Radioactive iodide uptake tests track how much iodide the thyroid takes in within a certain time period. Higher-than-normal amounts indicate possible hyperthyroidism; low levels indicate hypothyroidism. The test also helps determine if nodules are or are not overactive, which can help evaluate the risk of the nodule being cancer.

Blood tests also can measure levels of thyroid hormone.

What Are the Treatments for a Goiter?

A goiter may require no treatment, especially if it is small and thyroid hormone levels are normal. However, if the goiter develops because of excessive thyroid hormone production, fails to produce enough hormone, or causes discomfort, you will need treatment.

Treatment involves getting the thyroid hormone levels back to normal, usually with medication. When the medication takes effect, the thyroid may begin to return to its normal size. However, a large nodular goiter with a lot of internal scar tissue will not shrink with treatment. If the goiter is uncomfortable, causes overproduction of thyroid hormone unresponsive to medications, or becomes cancerous, the entire thyroid gland may have to be surgically removed.

If you have a goiter, your doctor may want to reevaluate it on a periodic basis with ultrasound to be sure that it is not growing or developing nodules.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on March 09, 2015

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