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5 Common Myths Regarding Goiter by The Medical City

April 24, 2012
5 Common Myths regarding Goiter
Only older women are at risk of thyroid problems. This, according to specialists from The Medical City (TMC) Department of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, is just one of the myths about goiter or thyroid disorders.
TMC endocrinologists say women are vulnerable to thyroid problems at any age. They can develop goiter during the post-partum period or in their late 30s when their hormones begin to change. Men also develop thyroid problems, and thyroid symptoms in men don't differ much from those that women usually experience. These include anxiety or depression, weight changes, loss of sex drive, and hair loss.
Goiter is a common disorder in the Philippines and in other countries. The majority of those who have the disorder, however, are not aware of what is goiter. 
The question for most of us really is- what is Goiter? Goiter refers to the enlargement of the thyroid gland, a small gland located in the lower part of the neck. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones (i.e. T3, T4) necessary for physical and mental growth and development.  It also regulates the body’s metabolism.
If a patient has goiter, his doctor will ask for his medical history, do a complete physical examination and order appropriate tests to determine the activity and structure of the thyroid gland.  Thyroid activity could be normal, low or hypothyroid, or overactive or hyperthyroid. 
Symptoms of hypothyroidism, characterized by too little thyroid activity or low production of thyroid hormones, include weight gain, constipation, and slower heartbeat. Additional symptoms of hypothyroidism are muscle weakness or cramps, hair loss, and dry skin to name a few.
On the other hand, hyperthyroidism which is characterized by too much activity or overproduction of thyroid hormones has the following signs and symptoms: weight loss, increased sweating, heat intolerance, rapid or irregular heartbeat, bulging eyes, and irritability. Hyperthyroidism likewise increases the patient’s risk of getting heart complications and osteoporosis. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause menstrual irregularities and infertility in women. 
Causes of goiter include iodine deficiency, autoimmune disorder, abnormal activity of other glands and genetic factors.
Here are some common myths and facts about goiter.
Myth: Eating lots of seafood can prevent goiter.
Fact:  Seafoods are important because they are rich in iodine, but they cannot shrink goiters.
Many goiters are not due to lack of iodine. It is important to consult your doctor to find out the cause of goiter.  In fact, too much iodine can also cause other thyroid problems in susceptible people.
Myth: Eating seafoods can cure goiter.
Fact: Seafoods are rich sources of iodine. A patient who is iodine deficient may develop goiter but eating seafoods alone cannot cure goiter.
Myth: One can develop goiter by excessive talking, shouting, or singing.
Fact:  The thyroid is located differently from the voice box or vocal cords. Excessive or too much use of the vocal cords does not affect thyroid size. However, a big goiter or some thyroid problems can affect the voice.
Myth: Goiter can be caused by bearing down during labor.
Fact: Pregnant women who lack iodine may develop a goiter to compensate for impaired or damaged thyroid function. Others may have an existing familial tendency to have a goiter that’s triggered by hormonal changes during pregnancy.
Myth: Goiter can be passed from mother to baby.
Fact:  Babies might be directly affected by some types of goiter but majority are not affected if the mother’s thyroid problem is properly treated and monitored. All babies are now routinely screened for thyroid dysfunction even if their mothers do not have goiter.
TMC endocrinologists suggest that it is best to consult a doctor immediately if one experiences any of the symptoms or feels tightness or swelling in the throat in the area of the thyroid gland.
Treatment of goiter includes medications, surgery and radioactive iodine therapy in some cases and changes in food or diet or iodine supplements for people who develop goiters because of iodine deficiency.
The following services are available at The Medical City: Blood tests for thyroid function (TSH, FT4, FT3), Nuclear Medicine (thyroglobulin, thyroid antibodies, thyroid scan/uptake, radioactive iodine therapy, total body scan), Imaging (thyroid ultrasound, ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration biopsy, CT scan), and consultation with competent endocrinologists.