Your thyroid gland plays an essential role in regulating your metabolism. By producing sufficient amounts of thyroid hormones—thyroxine and tri-idothyronine—your thyroid gland helps to control your body temperature, the rate at which carbohydrates and fats are used in your body, proper heart rate, and other functions within your body.
If improper thyroid hormone function is left untreated, a goitre may result.
Iodine deficiency is one factor that can contribute to an enlarged thyroid gland. However, thyroid deficiencies are far more common in developing countries where people consume iodine-deficient diets. Most people in developed countries get more than enough iodine in their diet in the form of table salt and other iodine-rich foods.
People with autoimmune disorders that attack the thyroid gland, such as Hashimoto’s disease or Graves’ disease, may develop goitres if these thyroid diseases are not treated. In the case of Hashimoto’s disease, the pituitary gland produces higher levels of TSH in response to low thyroid hormone levels. This stimulates the thyroid gland causing it to enlarge.
In the case of Graves’ disease, the thyroid gland begins to produce excessive amounts of the thyroid hormone thyroxine, which causes the gland to enlarge.
Thyroid nodules on one or both side of the thyroid gland result in goitres. While most of these nodules are benign, some are cancerous. Whether benign or cancerous, most forms of thyroid nodules can be treated with a high success rate.
Thyroiditis is another thyroid disorder that results in an inflamed thyroid gland. This condition can cause the thyroid to enlarge and to become painful. Some women develop postpartum thyroiditis after giving birth, but the condition is usually short term.
Some pregnant women develop slight enlargement of their thyroid gland during pregnancy. This is due to a hormone that is produced during pregnancy known as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
If you have any questions about thyroid symptoms or an enlarged thyroid gland – goitre, contact your local doctor who will arrange to contact your thyroid surgeon.