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what are the symptoms of a goitre?


A goitre is simply the term for an enlarged thyroid gland. There are a number of  causes of a goitre including:


  • physiological goitre of iodine deficiency – commonly seen in young people in living in an iodine deficient society

  • diffuse goitre from autoimmune thyroid disease (Graves’  or Hashimoto’s) – these are autoimmune disorders associated with either increased or reduced thyroid hormone production from the thyroid

  • benign multinodular goitre – this is due to the development of multiple colloid or jelly-like lumps in the thyroid and commonly runs in families

  • neoplastic goitre – the thyroid may become enlarged because of the development of tumours, either benign (adenomas) or malignant (thyroid cancer)


A goitre may cause symptoms of disordered function, with either too much (hyper-) or too little (hypo-) thyroid hormone being produced. This is explained further in symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.  A goitre may also cause symptoms of disordered structure  due to pressure on adjacent organs and other structures. Commonly a goitre will cause pressure on:


  • the trachea or windpipe – this leads to an irritating cough, followed by a sensation of choking, and eventually difficulty breathing

  • the oesophagus or swallowing tube – this leads to difficulty swallowing with solid food or tablets getting “stuck” on the way down

  • the recurrent laryngeal nerves or nerves to the voicebox – this leads to a change in the voice which eventually becomes husky and weak

  •  the major draining blood vessels or jugular vein – this causes the face to become red and bloated, especially with the arms raised

  • a malignant goitre may also spread beyond the local region and involve more distant structures such as lymph nodes, major nerves, bones or the lungs.


Professor Delbridge thyroid surgeon Sydney Australia symptoms of  goitre
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