Goitre is a swelling in the neck due to enlargement of the thyroid. It is associated with dysfunction of the thyroid. It can range from a small lump to a very large mass.

Patients with an enlarged thyroid might not have symptoms, or show symptoms such as coughing or difficulty swallowing.

Across the world, over 90% of cases are associated with iodine deficiency. This usually occurs in developing countries because of a lack of iodine in the soil. This kind of endemic goitre is highly uncommon in Australia because of the use of iodised salt.

Types of Goitre

There are three possibile types of goitre:

  • Uninodular goitre: these can be either an inactive or toxic nodular
  • Multinodular goitre: they can also be inactive or toxic, and the latter is specifically called toxic multinodular goitre.
  • Diffuse: this is where the entire thyroid seems to be enlarged.


Size of Goitre

There are three classes of goitre:

  • Class I: in normal posture of the head, it cannot be seen; it is only detectable by touch.
  • Class II: the swelling is visible
  • Class III: the swelling is very large and pressure results in marks of compression.

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is common and the incidence is increasing rapidly, especially in women. Thyroid cancer presents as a thyroid nodule. It is usually associated with uninodular goitre. A 1995 study by Ron et al notes malignancy in 4.7% of cases of unilateral goitre and 2.7% in multilateral goitre.

Thyroid dysfunction, in the form of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, is another possible cause of goitre. Hyperthyroidsm can indicate Grave’s disease. This usually presents as diffuse goitre. However, this is quite rare with only 0.1%-0.2% of cases of goitre being caused by this condition.

If you think you might have goitre, please organise an appointment to see Professor Havas as soon as possible.