What is Thyromegaly?
Thyromegaly is better known in simple terms as goiter. This means that the thyroid gland had grown into a much bigger size than the normal thyroid gland. This gland is located just at the base of the neck or just below the Adam’s apple, so as it grows beyond its normal size, it is much more visible. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that produces important thyroid hormones, which are important in the body’s metabolism. Decreased level of these thyroid hormones would result to hypothyroidism while increased level of thyroid hormones will lead to hyperthyroidism.
The people who are at risk of developing thyromegaly are the following:
- Most of the people affected are females.
- Those who are fond of eating cabbage, peanuts, peaches, spinach, etc.
- Having family members who also have/had goiters
- Have very little intake of iodine or not in the diet at all
- People who are taking certain medications such as lithium, iodides, and cobalt
Not all people with thyromegaly can experience all the signs and symptoms, because it also depends on the size of enlargement the thyroid assumes. The following are the typical symptoms seen in patients but not all:
- Enlargement or swelling is visible at the base of the neck
- Tight sensation on the throat
- Hoarse voice
- Breathing difficulties
- Swallowing difficulty
Histologically, the thyroid glands produces two types of hormones, namely the thyroxine and triiodothyronine. They are present in the bloodstream and maintain the body’s homeostasis by controlling the rate at which the body metabolizes fats and carbohydrates, control the body temperature, influence the heart rate, and regulate the production of proteins. In addition, it also produces calcitonin, which is another hormone that regulates the level of calcium in the blood.
The pituitary gland is then the one that controls the rate at which these hormones are produced, depending on the need of the body. The area at the base of the brain houses the organ that controls the thermoregulatory functions of the body, which is the hypothalamus. Once the body needs any of these hormones, the hypothalamus will send a signal to the to the pituitary gland to synthesize a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH. As the pituitary gland receives this signal, it will release TSH to the bloodstream, considering the level of thyroxine and triiodothyronine in the blood. The thyroid gland then functions to control the rate and release of the thyroid hormones into the bloodstream, depending on the level of TSH it receives from the pituitary gland.
The following are factors to consider why the thyroid gland can become enlarged:
Iodine is important in the production of thyroid hormones. By eating seawater products, people can derive a high concentration of this mineral and at least add up to the level of iodine the body needs.
This disease is associated with hyperthyroidism or oversecretion of thyroid hormones. Graves’ disease is considered to be an autoimmune disorder as the body’s immune system attacks its own thyroid gland, overstimulating it, and in return, it produces more thyroid hormones than needed.
This condition is considered as hypothyroidism as the thyroid gland underproduces the levels of thyroid hormones. Unlike Graves’ disease wherein it attacks its own thyroid glands, Hashimoto’s disease damages the thyroid gland, resulting to the very limited production of the thyroid hormone.
This is due to the accumulation of smaller nodules that develop on both sides of the thyroid and make it more enlarged.
- Thyroid cancer
- Inflammation or thyroiditis
Most of the time, small and noncancerous nodules do not really need treatment as they will not be causing problems, except for the lump formation. However, for patients who have more serious symptoms, they can benefit on the following treatment methods:
- Levethyroxine suppressive therapy – This involves a long process; therefore the patient’s commitment to the procedure is a must.
- Thyroid hormone replacement – Since thyromegaly can either be caused by low levels of thyroid hormones or not, replacement of this hormone is important and can be done through surgery or radiation treatment.
- Ethanol infusion
- Home remedies include getting enough iodine in the diet, and also if one ingests too much iodine, it can also lead to thyromegaly; therefore it is important to take in the desired iodine, but to a normal level.