Thyroid & Breathing Problems

Thyroid disease is fairly common, and its symptoms vary depending on the type of disorder and according to the individual. An uncomfortable and potentially dangerous side effect of thyroid disease includes breathing difficulties. Breathing problems are associated with certain kinds of thyroid disorders. Another danger is that such breathing difficulties may arise suddenly, and you may not be aware that they are caused by problems with your thyroid gland.


There are primarily two different types of thyroid conditions that can lead to subsequent breathing problems. These are goiter and hypothyroidism. A goiter is a vast enlargement of the thyroid that is a result of a lack of iodine in the diet or a lack of thyroid hormones. Goiter is not caused by cancer. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones or stops producing them entirely. As a result, the thyroid gland often becomes inflamed.


Thyroid & Breathing Problems

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You may not be able to identify an inflamed thyroid that is a result of hypothyroidism on your own because the gland itself is so small, usually less than 5 cm in length. An endocrinologist can identify an inflamed thyroid gland through an ultrasound or by hand, as he is well experienced in the detection of thyroid problems. A goiter is much larger, so you will likely be able to identify it on your neck, especially after putting on cosmetics or shaving. In severe cases, the goiter is so large that your neck actually gets bigger.


Both a goiter and an inflamed thyroid resulting from hypothyroidism put strain on the windpipe as they get larger. Symptoms to look for are a visibly enlarged area of the neck, coughing, a change in voice, shortness of breath and difficulty swallowing. However, you may not always experience such symptoms, so be sure to have a doctor regularly check your thyroid gland for any possible irregularities.


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The only solution for a goiter is to undergo a thyroidectomy, or the surgical removal of the thyroid gland. This prevents the goiter from getting larger and causing breathing problems. An inflamed thyroid is prevented by hormone replacement drugs that are common with the treatment of hypothyroidism. Such drugs are to be taken for life and help to replenish hormones that the thyroid gland does not produce.


Call your doctor immediately if you experience any breathing problems, especially if they make you dizzy. In addition, an overdose of thyroid replacement drugs requires prompt medical attention, as this can cause sudden breathing difficulties.