A goitre (sometimes spelt " goiter " ) is a swelling of the thyroid gland that causes a lump to form in the front of theneck. The lump will move up and down when you swallow.

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, just in front of the windpipe (trachea). It produces thyroid hormones, which help regulate the body's metabolism, the chemical processes that occur in the body.

The size of a goitre can vary from person to person. In most cases, the swelling is small and doesn't cause any symptoms.

In more severe cases, the symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • a tight feeling in your throat
  • changes to your voice, such as hoarsenes
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • difficulty breathingthere may be a high-pitched sound when you breathe (stridor)

Diagnosing a goitre

If you think you have a goitre, see your GP. They'll examine your neck to see whether yourthyroid gland is swollen, andmay request a thyroid function test to see how well your thyroid gland is working.

A thyroid function test measures the level of certain hormones (chemicals produced by the body) in your blood.

It can show whether you have an underactive or overactive thyroid, both of which are associated with goitre.

If necessary, you may be referred to a specialist in hospital for further tests or treatment.

If the goitre is small and isn't causing any problems, a wait-and-see approach is usually recommended.

Other possible treatments include radioiodine treatment and thyroid surgery.

Although most goitres are usually non-cancerous (benign), it's estimated that in 1 in 20 cases they may be a sign of thyroid cancer .

Women are also more likely to developa goitre.

Types of goitre

There are twomain types of goitre:

  • diffuse goitre where the entire thyroid gland swells and feels smooth to the touch
  • nodular goitre where solid or fluid-filled lumps callednodules develop within the thyroid and make the thyroid gland feel lumpy to touch; the nodules can be single or multiple and may contain fluid (cysts)
Thyroid gland
The thyroid gland is found in the neck. It produces hormones that are released into the bloodstream to control the body's growth and metabolism (the process that turns food into energy).
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016