A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. It is located in the middle of the throat. While they are painless, they can be uncomfortable if they get large. The thyroid is a very small gland that sits right below the Adam's apple and wraps around the front of the trachea. It has two lobes and produces hormones that operate the metabolism. If the thyroid is overactive, you may be nervous, have insomnia, and be hungry all the time while still losing weight. If your thyroid is underactive, you may feel tired, be sensitive to cold, clumsy and gain weight. Enlargement of the thyroid gland does not need a change in hormone production to occur. The problem is more commonly found in women and in the elderly.
The primary symptom of goiter is the enlargement of the thyroid gland. It creates a prominent swelling on the neck. The size can vary from hardly noticeable to very large. If the thyroid is inflamed, the gland can be painful. If it presses on the trachea, there may be problems breathing or swallowing. Emotional symptoms may include depression, irritability, mood swings, loss of concentration and emotional upset.
Goiters can grow if the thyroid is overactive or underactive, but most occur when thyroid hormones are normal. The gland increases in size in an effort to keep hormone levels constant. This happens when iodine is lacking from the diet. Thyroid problems happen commonly during times of hormonal change, like puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Goiters may also be caused by Graves' disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. In the majority of cases, eating seafood and fruits and vegetables that contain iodine will help alleviate or prevent the problem.
An enlarged gland may be cancerous, and should be tested by a professional to rule it out. If you experience symptoms of an overactive or underactive thyroid you need to seek medical advice.