GoitreTreatment

Treatment for a goitre can include medicine, hormone therapy and surgery.

Treatment for a goitre can include medicine, hormone therapy and surgery.

The treatment you receive will depend on:

  • the size of the goitre
  • the symptoms the goitre is causing
  • whether you have any underlying thyroid condition

You may just be monitored if tests reveal your thyroid gland is working normally and the goitre is small. 

If your goitre is interfering with your breathing or swallowing and it has not responded to other forms of treatment, you may need surgery to remove part or all of your thyroid gland.

This procedure is known as a thyroidectomy.

Treating thyroid gland problems

If tests reveal a problem with your thyroid gland, you may receive treatment for:

  • an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), which may include taking a type of medicine known as thionamides or a type of radiotherapy called radioiodine treatment
  • an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), which usually involves taking a synthetic hormone called levothyroxine to replicate your normal thyroid function

Read more about treating hypothyroidism and treating hyperthyroidism.

Iodine supplements

A well-balanced diet usually provides all the iodine your body needs. Iodine supplements are not usually required in developed countries like the UK.

A GP can give more advice about extra supplements, if needed.

Iodine supplements are available in many health food shops without a prescription.

But always talk to a GP before taking them, as the amount of iodine needed varies from person to person.

Taking too much iodine may cause other health problems, and could also have toxic effects.

Thyroid gland surgery

Before having surgery to remove some or all of your thyroid gland, you'll be given a general anaesthetic so you're unconscious and unable to feel anything.

During surgery, the surgeon makes a cut in the front of your neck so they can see your thyroid gland.

How much of the thyroid gland is removed depends on the underlying condition causing the goitre.

The procedure reduces the size of your goitre and the amount of thyroid hormones being produced.

The surgeon will attempt to remove enough of your thyroid gland to relieve your symptoms, while leaving enough so normal thyroid hormone production can continue.

But you may need hormone therapy after surgery if this is not possible.

Complications of thyroid gland surgery

Surgery to remove some or all of the thyroid gland is usually safe, but as with all operations, there's a risk of complications.

The risk of complications happening after thyroid gland surgery is estimated to be 1 to 2 in 100.

Before having the surgery, discuss the risks with your surgeon.

Infection, nerve damage and parathyroid gland damage are the main complications of thyroid gland surgery.

Infection

As with all surgery, there's a risk of infection after thyroid surgery.

Nerve damage

The thyroid gland is very close to the laryngeal nerves, which control your vocal cords.

If these are accidentally damaged during surgery, your voice and breathing could be affected.

Permanent damage to the laryngeal nerves affects 1 to 2 people in every 100 who have this type of surgery.

Temporary damage may affect up to 5 people in every 100.

Parathyroid gland damage

The parathyroid glands are tiny glands behind the thyroid. They help regulate the amount of calcium in your body.

If the parathyroid glands are damaged during thyroid surgery, you'll probably need to take calcium supplements for the rest of your life.

Page last reviewed: 15/04/2019
Next review due: 15/04/2022