What is goiter?

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Goiter: Overview

A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. It can cause swelling in your neck.

Your thyroid is found in the front of your neck. It makes a hormone that controls how your body uses energy.

Goiters are caused by different things. Some are caused by high or low levels of thyroid hormone. Others are caused by too little iodine in the diet, or a growth or disease in the thyroid. In the United States, most goiters are caused by long-term autoimmune thyroiditis. This is also called Hashimoto's thyroiditis. It happens when the body's immune system damages the thyroid.

You may take thyroid hormone to reduce the size of your goiter. Or you may need surgery or radioactive iodine treatment. Some people don't need any treatment. They only need to watch for changes in the goiter.


A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland, which is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. A goiter often causes a noticeable swelling in the neck.

A goiter can be caused by a lack of iodine in the diet, a tumor or nodule on the gland, a thyroid disease, or, in rare cases, cancer. In many parts of the world, goiters are most common in people who have hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, related to a low-iodine diet. In the United States, most people with goiters have chronic autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto's thyroiditis).

An enlarged thyroid may produce normal amounts of thyroid hormone, or it may produce less- or greater-than-normal amounts. Treatment for a goiter depends on what is causing it.

How can you care for a goiter?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.


Inside views of a normal thyroid gland and an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)

Goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. It can be caused by many things, including nodules, inflammation, and Graves' disease. Often goiter can be easily seen as a lump in the front of the neck, slightly to the left and/or right of center. It may move up and down when a person swallows.

Goiter: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your eyes turn red and bulge.
  • You have trouble swallowing.
  • You feel very tired or weak.
  • You lose weight but are eating the same or more than usual.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.