When it comes to treating an enlarged thyroid gland, unfortunately, there’s no “DIY” manual. An enlarged thyroid gland is usually the result of an underlying medical condition requiring medical management, such as thyroid nodules, cancer or conditions that result in hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Until these conditions are addressed by a medical professional, the enlarged thyroid will usually persist and may even cause problems such as restricted breathing, coughing, airway restriction and choking on foods and liquids. If you have an enlarged thyroid, first seek a medical consultation with an endocrinologist who can render an accurate diagnosis.
1. Have thyroid surgery, if your doctor deems it medically necessary. If you have cancer of the thyroid, the entire gland, as well as the surrounding lymph nodes, must be surgically removed. Additionally, the presence of thyroid nodules or thyroiditis that results in pus-filled abscesses on the thyroid gland, may also necessitate surgery. It is important to note that when a patient suffers from hyperthyroidism (e.g. Graves’ Disease), physicians are loathe to perform surgery when less invasive treatment methods are available.
2. If you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, such as Hashimoto’s Disease, take thyroid hormone replacement daily as recommended by your doctor. Medications such as Synthroid and Cytomel replace hormones needed for a healthy metabolism that the thyroid gland is not producing. While an enlarged thyroid gland–also known as a “goiter”–may not resolve entirely, its size will be reduced. Patients with hypothyroidism will also experience the benefits of an increased metabolism, such as increased energy and mental awareness, decreased fatigue and in many cases, weight loss.
3. If you are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, such as Graves’ Disease, take anti-thyroid medication as prescribed by your physician. Medications such as Tapazole absorb the excess thyroid hormone in the bloodstream and relieve troublesome symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism, such as fast, irregular heart rate, excessive sweating, tremors, anxiety and the inability to fall and remain asleep. As in the case of hypothyroidism, a goiter may not resolve completely but will become substantially smaller in size.
4. If necessary, consider radioactive iodine treatment, an out-patient treatment that destroys the thyroid gland. Radioactive iodine treatment may be appropriate for some Graves’ Disease patients who suffer numerous periods of hyperthyroidism even after being treated with anti-thyroid medication or those whose symptoms pose health problems. This treatment does pose certain risks, including heart attack and blindness, as well as permanent hypothyroidism that is unresponsive to hormone replacement therapy.
5. If you suffer from an enlarged thyroid that is painful, such as that which may develop with thyroiditis, take aspirin and get plenty of bed rest. While thyroiditis is usually transient in nature, it may be necessary to take thyroid hormone replacement or anti-thyroid medication if the thyroiditis results in over or underproduction of thyroid hormone.