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What is a goitre?

A goitre is a lump in the neck caused by the thyroid gland becoming swollen.

Woman With Swollen Thyroid

Causes of this swelling include:


Women are more likely to develop goitres than men are, especially during pregnancy or menopause. The risk of having a goitre increases as people get older.

A goitre may be due to swelling of the whole of the thyroid gland, called a diffuse goitre, or from individual lumps, called a nodular goitre.

A diffuse goitre will feel smooth unlike the lumpier nodular goitre.

Goitre symptoms

If the goitre is small, it may not cause any discomfort, but the throat may feel tight, with a hoarse voice and a cough.

A larger goitre may affect swallowing and breathing.

Goitre diagnosis

The initial diagnosis of a goitre involves a doctor examining the neck and throat.

If a thyroid problem is suspected, thyroid function tests will be arranged. These tests measure thyroid hormones in the blood to check how the gland is working.

A GP may refer someone with a goitre to a specialist for testing and treatment.

Additional testing may involve ultrasound, a radioactive iodine scan or a tissue biopsy sample being taken through a minor procedure called fine-needle aspiration.

Goitre treatment

A small goitre may not be treated if it is working normally, and doctors would prefer to wait to see what happens.

If treatment is recommended, this usually involves treating the underlying condition responsible for the goitre.

This may include thyroid medicine to correct an imbalance, treatment with radioiodine or an operation on the thyroid gland.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith on May 29, 2015

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