While goiters aren't very common in teens, they can occur, especially if your teen has one or more risk factors. Goiter can happen in males or females, but is more likely in females. Luckily, in most cases a goiter is nothing to worry about and isn't dangerous or painful. Still, if your teen has a goiter it's a good idea to educate her, and yourself, on the condition.
What Is a Goiter?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the front of the neck, explains the Mayo Clinic. A goiter is an enlargement of this gland. In some people, a goiter is a general enlargement, while in others the thyroid gland develops small lumps or nodules that form the goiter. Most of the time, a goiter is harmless and you may not even know you have it. In rare cases, cancerous tumors may develop, so it's always important to consult your doctor if you have any concerns.
Causes of Goiter in Teens
While goiter isn't very common in teens, when it does occur it's usually because of a dysfunction of the thyroid gland. The condition of a teen whose thyroid is underactive is referred to as hypothyroidism. An overactive thyroid is a condition that is known as hyperthyroidism. In some cases, a malfunctioning thyroid can be caused by an autoimmune condition, such as Hashimoto's disease or Graves' disease. If you or other family members have a goiter, your teen is more likely than the average teen to develop one. Hartford Hospital explains that eating a good amount of foods that are known as goitrogens, such as cabbage, turnips and Brussels sprouts, can also encourage the growth of goiters. In other parts of the world, a common cause of goiter is lack of iodine in the diet, but that is not usually the case in the United States. This is because most table salt here contains iodine.
In some cases, a goiter doesn't even need to be treated. Your teen's doctor may just want to see her periodically to check levels of thyroid hormone in the blood, or for a physical exam or an ultrasound of the thyroid to see if the goiter is getting bigger. If treatment of the goiter is needed, usually the option will be medication that supplements the hormones your teen's thyroid should be making on its own. In rarer cases, surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid may be necessary.
Symptoms of Goiter
If a goiter isn't very big, there may be no symptoms. Your teen's doctor may just notice it when palpating the thyroid during a routine physical exam. If symptoms do occur, your teen may notice swelling in the base of the front of her throat. Or she may complain of feeling like she has a lump in her throat, much like when you swallow and still feel food in the back of the throat. She may also complain of an uncomfortable feeling when laying on her back, explains KidsHealth.
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