A goitre is an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. The thyroid refers to a small, butterfly- shaped gland inside the neck. It produces hormones, which control the body’s metabolism and regulate the rate at which the body carries out its functions. A goitre may mean that the thyroid gland is not functioning normally. The symptoms of goitre generally occur in a gland that is overactive, producing too much hormone (hyperthyroidism), or that is underactive, producing too little hormone (hypothyroidism). When the enlargement of the gland is very marked, the goitre puts pressure on other parts of the neck such as the trachea and oesophagus, making it difficult to breathe and swallow.
The presence of an enlarged goitre indicates there is a problem with the thyroid gland, even if the child does not have any clinical signs of a thyroid problem. The symptoms are usually those of high or low thyroid hormone levels, which include; high blood pressure, neck or ear pain, stress and anxiety, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, headache, snoring, cough, swelling or disfigurement of the neck, throat tightness, and difficulty in breathing. When a baby is born with an enlarged thyroid, it is referred to as a congenital goitre. Unlike a goitre in an adult, which can occur due to an unsuitable diet, a congenital goitre is associated with increased or decreased thyroid function. When a newborn baby has a congenital goitre, often times it is hard for them to breathe due to the goitre pressing against their windpipe. Children can also acquire a goitre due to the lack of iodine in their diet. Be sure your child is getting enough nutrients by eating well-balanced meals that include foods rich in iodine.
Treatment for goitre depends on a number of factors such as the size of the enlargement, symptoms and the underlying cause. Once these are determined, a plan for treatment can begin. The doctor may recommend that you observe the goiter, or may prescribe some medicine, or offer radioactive iodine treatment and surgery usually as a last resort.
Photo credit: novaviavitae.org