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A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland that typically requires treatment, especially if it is already large or appears to be continually growing. Most doctors decide to monitor the issue to make sure that treatment is necessary, and if it is, the first step may be to regulate iodine consumption. It is sometimes necessary for doctors to offer radioactive iodine to patients with an overactive thyroid gland. Medication may also be prescribed in the case of thyroid disorders, such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Finally, surgery may be necessary, as removing all or part of the affected gland is sometimes the only way to take care of the issue.
Most goiter cases are caused by insufficient intake of iodine, so the simplest goiter treatment is typically to eat more of this substance. Iodine can be found in iodized salt, seaweed, and seafood. In particular, sushi, shrimp, and shellfish have a lot of iodine, though dairy products often do, as well. Those with an overactive thyroid gland may need to take radioactive iodine orally to get rid of the excess thyroid cells. Unfortunately, this type of goiter treatment may result in an underactive gland, making lifelong hormone replacement therapy likely in order to get the right amount of thyroid cells.
Some doctors suggest treating an inflamed thyroid gland with corticosteroids or aspirin, but lumps that are caused from hyperthyroidism usually call for medications meant to stabilize the hormone levels in the body. On the other hand, sometimes a goiter is caused by hypothyroidism, in which case the doctor will prescribe levothyroxine, which is a synthetic hormone. This can shrink the goiter by signaling to the pituitary gland to stop the excess thyroid hormone production.
One type of goiter treatment that is typically only used when necessary is a thyroidectomy, which involves removing part or all of the thyroid gland affected by the goiter. The determining factor in deciding how much of the gland to remove is usually the goiter size, as large lumps that hinder swallowing, talking, or breathing should usually be removed promptly. A goiter that seems to be growing or is just large enough to be noticeable, making the patient uncomfortable with their appearance, is typically also removed through surgery. This type of goiter treatment is usually followed by hormone replacement therapy, at least for a temporary period of time afterward. On the other hand, if the lump is still rather small and does not seem to be growing, goiter treatment may be delayed so that the doctor can monitor it or try other methods of treating it first.
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