A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid. The thyroid is a gland. It produces hormones that help regulate your body’s metabolism. It is located on the front of the neck, right below the Adam’s apple. Goiters are seldom painful. They tend to grow slowly.

There are different types of goiters. This sheet focuses on nontoxic (or sporadic) goiter. It is a type of simple goiter that may be:

  • Diffuse—enlarging the whole thyroid gland
  • Nodular—enlargement caused by nodules, or lumps, on the thyroid

The development of nodules marks a progression of the goiter. It should be evaluated by your doctor.

Goiter (Enlargement of the Thyroid Gland)
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The exact causes of nontoxic goiter are not known. In general, goiters may be caused by too much or too little thyroid hormones. There is often normal thyroid function with a nontoxic goiter. Some possible causes of nontoxic goiter include:

  • Heredity (family history of goiters)
  • Regular use of medications such as lithium, propylthiouracil, phenylbutazone, or aminoglutethimide
  • Taking a lot of substances (goitrogens) that inhibit production of thyroid hormone—common goitrogens include foods such as cabbage, turnips, brussel sprouts, seaweed, and millet
  • Iodine deficiency—Iodine deficiency is very rare in the United States and other developed countries, due to the use of iodized table salt; this is a primary cause of goiter in other parts of the world, particularly in mountainous areas, or areas that experience heavy rainfall or flooding