Enlarged thyroid gland
Thyroid gland is located just under the skin on the front of the neck. Its main task is to produce the hormone thyroxine, and this hormone is responsible for our metabolism. A normal gland weighs 20-30 g and each piece measures approximately 2 x 4 x 2.5 cm in width, height and thickness (see drawing). The normal thyroid gland often can not be touched and seen. When thyroid problems involve you, in most cases, you have an enlarged thyroid, that is one of the most common symptoms of thyroid disease, and becomes a result of benign hyperplasia, swelling or congestion of thyroid, inflammation, growth of thyroid tumor or thyroid cancer. In the case of enlarged thyroid, the thyroid is enlarged or swollen in the form of diffuse-uniform swelling, uneven-irregular-single nodule or multinodular enlargement.
Enlarged thyroid describes a palpable, visible or measurable enlargement of the thyroid gland, regardless of the metabolic condition (overactive, underactive or normal thyroid function). In addition, with the development of enlarged thyroid, it often causes compressive symptoms in throat, or affecting breathing and swallowing. The enlarged thyroid can be recognized with the naked eye or by microscope in histological structure. Typically, the enlarged thyroid shows a diffuse thyroid swelling, or a mass or lump in the front of the neck. The prevalence of enlarged thyroid is very high. This condition can occur in people of any age, especially affecting women more frequently. With increasing age, the chance of getting an enlarged thyroid also increases. By statistics: About one eighteenth of the young women aged of 20 years old or more, have enlarged thyroid; In women aged over 50 years, more than half have enlarged thyroid in their lifetime; The prevalence of enlarged thyroid of men is one-tenth to one-third of the women.
Enlarged thyroid types
The enlarged thyroid may be diffuse-uniform enlargement, or irregular-nodular-multinodular growth, affecting bilateral or unilateral. There are various forms of the enlargement of thyroid: ① In shape, a diffuse, uniform enlargement of thyroid can be distinguished from thyroid nodules, that are irregular, uneven, solitary thyroid nodule and multinodular thyroid enlargement. The thyroid nodules are very common, and may develop from the diffuse-uniform enlarged thyroid in its advanced and late stages, or indicate benign thyroid tumor or thyroid cancer. ② Formation and composition, the enlarged thyroid can be neoplastic enlargement, which contains a tumor - a benign thyroid adenoma or a malignant thyroid cancer; Or an inflammatory enlargement - thyroiditis; Or a non-inflammatory, non-neoplastic enlargement - goiter (hyperplasia and swelling). ③ Function: The enlarged thyroid can be divided into the euthyroid (having a normally functioning, enlarged thyroid, normal metabolic values), the hypothyroid (enlarged thyroid with hypofunction - low thyroid), the hyperthyroid (enlarged thyroid with hyperactivity - high thyroid). ④ Development: The majority of cases of enlarged thyroid begin with diffuse-uniform enlargement, and gradually develop into irregular enlargement and thyroid nodules, lump. This development is not only reflected in the changes in shape and size, but also affects the thyroid symptoms and metabolism in some cases.
Enlarged thyroid causes
Thyroid disease and thyroid symptoms
Enlarged thyroid is a sign of thyroid disease. When you have an enlarged thyroid gland, your doctor will analyze and investigate what thyroid disease it is on earth, for example:
Goiter (precisely simple goiter): Benign hyperplasia
(increase in the number of cells) and hypertrophy (increase/swelling in cell
size). It is non-inflammatory non-neoplastic enlarged thyroid, not accompanied
by hypothyroid or hyperthyroid. If thyroid is huge, it can compress the trachea
and esophagus to lead to difficulty breathing and swallowing.
① Physiological goiter: That causes a small enlarged thyroid gland with normal metabolism and no other signs of disease; It is particularly common in teenagers and pregnant.
② Endemic goiter: iodine deficiency is the main cause, if within the same area more than 10% of the population are affected; Otherwise known as sporadic goiter.
Graves disease (diffuse toxic goiter), thyroid swelling or
congestion, causing hyperthyroidism (high thyroid).
Hyperthyroidism (hyperthyroid, high thyroid, overactive thyroid): a common syndrome characterized by excessive production of thyroid hormones and enlarged thyroid, caused by various causes; Usually affecting multiple systems, typical symptoms e.g. bulging eyes.
Hyperthyroid symptoms: such as restlessness, irritability, tremor, weight loss despite good appetite, sweating and heat intolerance, heart palpitations.
Thyroiditis: In these cases, thyroids shrink or enlarges due
to inflammatory swelling. That is caused by viruses (subacute thyroiditis) or due to
① Infection causes chills, fever, fatigue and loss of appetite, neck pain in area of thyroid, slightly enlarged thyroid; This type of thyroiditis may be self-healing in some cases.
② Chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis (Hashimoto's disease): Autoimmune thyroid disease; Common affecting middle-aged women; Thyroid symptoms including fatigue, moderate diffuse swelling with thyroid nodules, thyroid pain or no pain; May develop into hypothyroidism, edema; Treatment relying on drugs.
Hypothyroid symptoms: such as inactivity, cold intolerance, muscle pain, hair loss, rougher voice, increased need for sleep, weight gain (generally moderate), constipation, dizziness, tingling sensations in hands.
Thyroid tumor: for example, thyroid cancer, thyroid adenoma, parathyroid tumor. Neoplastic growth of the thyroid leads to an enlarged thyroid gland, manifested as thyroid nodules, lump in neck. The thyroid adenoma or thyroid cancer can involve trachea and esophagus, compress nerve to lead to Horner's syndrome. Thyroid cancer can spread to (metastasis) lungs, bone, and leads to swollen lymph nodes in neck.
Potential causative factors
Behind these thyroid diseases, there are many causative factors causing enlarged thyroid. The possible causes leading to the enlarged thyroid include:
- Iodine deficiency or excess.
- Abuse of certain substances and drugs, for example, thiocyanate, thioamides, phenylbutazone, lithium carbonate.
- Thyroid hormone requirements increase, that may be pathological or physiological, harmless.
- Birth defects, defect of thyroid hormone production, certain enzyme defect.
- Autoimmune factors, autoimmune inflammatory destruction.
- virus infection, viral inflammatory damage.
- Benign thyroid tumor, thyroid adenoma.
- Thyroid cancer.
How to deal with an enlarged thyroid?
The prevalence of enlarged thyroid (including thyroid nodules) is very high. People of any age may be suffering from an enlarged thyroid, especially more in women. If you have an enlarged thyroid, you do not need to worry too much about it. That's because the vast majority of cases of enlarged thyroid are not malignant and can be cured. Nevertheless, if you have an enlarged thyroid, you still need to contact your doctor. They can clarify the thyroid disease by special examinations, such as history taking, physical examination, thyroid ultrasound examination, CT or MRI, blood tests and thyroid function test, thyroid scintigraphy, or even thyroid puncture and biopsy; And, then, your doctors develop treatment plans based on the causes, symptoms, progress and stages. The thyroid treatment options include such as drug therapy with administration of iodine and/or thyroid hormones, thyroid surgery and radioiodine therapy.