Difference Between Thyroid and Goiter

The thyroid and goiter are two terms that are often used interchangeably to describe conditions in the neck. However, they are two distinct conditions with different causes, symptoms, and treatments. This essay aims to explore the difference between thyroid and goiter.

What is Thyroid?

The thyroid functions as an endocrine system organ. Two different hormones produced by this gland control metabolic rate.

Structure − Thyroid anatomy consists of four lobes located in the base of the human neck. In the lobes, follicles are found, which are encased in epithelia. Follicles are where hormones are synthesised.

Function − The thyroid's two hormones help regulate metabolic rate. Production of hormones includes thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Each of the thyroid's follicles is responsible for producing them from iodine molecules.

Regulation − Hypothalamus and anterior pituitary gland hormones regulate thyroid hormone release. Each of these brain areas is part of a negative feedback loop that regulates their respective activities. The hypothalamus becomes active when there are insufficient levels of thyroid hormone in the blood. Thyrotropin-releasing hormone is secreted as a result, prompting the anterior pituitary to release thyroid-stimulating hormone, which, in turn, encourages the thyroid to produce and release the two thyroid hormones into the circulation.

Disorders − Problems with the thyroid gland often fall into two categories: either the gland is producing too little or too much of the hormones that regulate metabolism. Due to an underactive thyroid, a lack of hormone production can cause a sluggish metabolism, leading to weight gain, as well as dry, brittle hair. In contrast, a person with an overactive thyroid frequently has high heart rate and weight loss.

What is Goiter?

Goiter, on the other hand, refers to an enlargement of the thyroid gland. A goiter can occur in people with either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, or it can occur in people with normal thyroid function. The most common cause of a goiter is iodine deficiency. Iodine is a mineral that the body needs to make thyroid hormones.

Without enough iodine, the thyroid gland can become enlarged as it tries to produce more hormone. However, a goiter can also be caused by other factors such as thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer, and certain medications.

The symptoms of a goiter can vary depending on the cause and size of the enlargement. Some people may not experience any symptoms, while others may experience difficulty breathing or swallowing, hoarseness, or a visible swelling in the neck.

Structure − A goiter is comprised of one or many nodules which contain tissue that is somewhat different histologically when compared with normal thyroid gland tissue. The epithelia surrounding the follicles contain various projections and the follicles vary in size. The epithelial layer may also be unusually thickened compared with normal epithelia. The actual goiter may or may not be visible as a swelling in the neck.

Function − A goiter is the thyroid gland which has become larger, and thus the function may or may not be impacted. In some cases, the thyroid hormones are still produced at the same concentrations as before but in other cases too little or too much may be secreted. It is rare for the nodules to cause too little of the hormones to be produced, more commonly they cause an elevation in thyroid hormone production (hyperthyroidism).

Treatment of Thyroid and Goiter

The treatment for thyroid conditions and goiter can vary depending on the cause and severity of the condition. Treatment options for hyperthyroidism include medications, radioactive iodine therapy, and surgery. Treatment options for hypothyroidism include hormone replacement therapy. Treatment options for a goiter depend on the underlying cause and may include medication, surgery, or simply monitoring the condition.

Differences: Thyroid and Goiter

The following table highlights the major differences between Thyroid and Goiter −





The thyroid is an endocrine gland that is located in the neck and it produces various thyroid hormones.

The goiter is a swelling that develops in the thyroid gland because of some pathological condition or a lack of iodine.


The thyroid gland consists of structures known as follicles that are enclosed by a layer of epithelial cells.

The goiter consists of follicles of variable size which are surrounded by a thick epithelial layer that has projections present.

Lobes or nodules

There is a maximum of two lobules making up a thyroid.

There are anywhere from one (uninodular) to several (multinodular) nodes making up a goiter.


The thyroid gland has a maximum size of about 20 g

A goiter can have a maximum size of up to 1000 g.

Pathological condition

A thyroid is normal tissue of the body which is not due to any pathological process.

A goiter is an abnormal tissue that results from pathological processes or a lack of iodine in the diet.


The thyroid gland is controlled by hormones produces by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland.

The size of a goiter can be controlled by surgery or radioactive iodine.


In conclusion, while the thyroid and goiter are often used interchangeably, they are two distinct conditions with different causes, symptoms, and treatments. The thyroid is a gland that produces hormones that regulate the body's metabolism. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are conditions that result from an excess or deficiency of thyroid hormones.

A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland that can be caused by a variety of factors, including iodine deficiency, thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer, and certain medications. The treatment for these conditions can vary depending on the cause and severity of the condition.

Updated on: 07-Apr-2023


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