Audrey was only able to visit her elderly mother, Martha, every couple of months because she lived far away. Martha was generally in good health, but one day when Audrey visited, she noticed her mother’s throat looked swollen. When Audrey asked her about it, Martha said she had a bit of a sore throat, or at least it felt strange when she swallowed. Martha insisted they have it checked out by a doctor. The doctor diagnosed Martha with a goiter.
Goiters are a condition of the thyroid gland. Mild goiters may not cause much of a problem. However, when goiters are large, they can make it difficult to swallow or even breathe. Knowing more about goiters and the risk factors for them may help you to be aware of the problem in your aging relative.
General Information About Goiters
A goiter happens when the thyroid gland becomes abnormally enlarged. The thyroid is a gland located toward the bottom of the neck, just under the Adam’s apple. It is shaped a bit like a butterfly.
Goiters are generally painless. Sometimes they don’t even cause noticeable symptoms. Possible symptoms that may occur are:
- Swelling at the base of the neck. It may only be visible when the person shaves or puts makeup on.
- Tightness in the throat.
- Hoarse voice.
- Trouble swallowing.
- Problems with breathing.
Goiter Risk Factors
Goiter can happen to anyone at any age. It can be caused by a number of different things, including iodine deficiency, an autoimmune disease, and hyperthyroidism. Things that put your aging relative at higher risk for goiter are:
- Age: Although goiters can happen at any age, they are more common in people over the age of 40.
- Gender: Women get goiters more often than men.
- Medical History: People who have autoimmune diseases or who have a family history of them are at higher risk.
- Medications: Some medications, such as those used for heart disease and psychiatric disorders, may increase risk for goiter.
- Radiation: People who have had radiation treatment or have been exposed to radiation in another way are at higher risk.
- Iodine Deficiency: Although most people in the U.S. get enough iodine, people who live in areas where it is not readily available may develop goiters more often.
The treatment of goiter depends on its severity. Sometimes doctors just monitor the condition for changes. When goiter does require treatment, doctors may prescribe medication or recommend surgery. Home care can assist seniors during goiter treatment. A home care provider can drive the older adult to appointments for monitoring the condition or follow-ups after surgery. Home care providers can also remind seniors to take their medication at scheduled times.
If you or an aging loved one are considering home care in Plainsboro, NJ, please call the caring staff at Care Street Home Care. You can reach our Mercer/Burlington Division at (609) 496-5666.
Dr. Shelly, as he is fondly known, has served as an Alzheimer’s Support Group Facilitator in Mercer County and is a Certified Dementia Instructor. Knowledgeable, compassionate, and unusually devoted, his guidance is crucial in helping families understand their options and render decisions for their loved ones’ care plan. Dr. Shelly’s extensive experience, sincere and pleasant demeanor, and professional affiliations have made him a vital asset to Care Street.