A toxic multinodular goiter is a group of small bumps that form within a person's thyroid gland. The bumps produce and release excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, which can lead to heart and bone problems, a hyperactive metabolism, and muscle weakness. In addition, swollen nodules may make it difficult for an individual to breathe or swallow. The condition can afflict anyone, though it is most common in older adults, especially women over the age of 50. A person who believes he or she may have a toxic multinodular goiter should seek immediate medical services so that it may be properly diagnosed and treated.
Doctors have identified several possible genetic, dietary, and environmental causes for the formation of toxic multinodular goiters. According to medical research, heredity is a major determining factor in the development of goiters, as individuals with family histories of thyroid problems are predisposed to disorders. Iodine deficiencies, generally poor diets, and exposure to high levels of radiation can also lead to goiters.
A healthy thyroid gland produces hormones which regulate body temperature, metabolism, heart rate, and other important bodily functions. When a toxic multinodular goiter forms, hormone levels skyrocket to the point that they do much more harm to the body than good. Unregulated hormone levels can lead to a rapid heartbeat, anxiety and nervousness, intolerance for heat, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, very sudden weight loss, and tremors. These symptoms may be accompanied by excessive thyroid swelling, leading to problems swallowing, speaking, and breathing.
An individual who experiences some or all of these symptoms should consult a physician, who can perform a number of clinical tests to confirm the existence of a toxic multinodular goiter. A doctor might perform a physical examination, ultrasound, or biopsy of thyroid tissue to make a proper diagnosis. Once a goiter is found to be the cause of a patient's ailments, the physician may prescribe drugs that limit the production of thyroid hormones or suggest that the patient take iodine supplements. In some cases, radioiodine therapy is effective in attacking and destroying nodules. Patients who experience severe swelling may have to undergo surgery to completely remove a toxic multinodular goiter.
When treated immediately with supplements, medication, or radioiodine therapy, most goiters disappear in four to ten weeks. Many patients begin to feel better and gain weight immediately after treatment. Some people, especially those with inherited thyroid problems, tend to experience several recurrences of goiters or hyperthyroidism. Such individuals may need to undergo multiple treatments or have their thyroids surgically removed to fully relieve symptoms.