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Congenital Goiter

By

Andrew Calabria

, MD, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Last full review/revision Sep 2022| Content last modified Sep 2022
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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Congenital goiter is enlargement of the thyroid gland that is present at birth.

(For adults, also see Goiter Simple Nontoxic Goiter .)

The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland Endocrine Glands located in the neck. Endocrine glands secrete hormones into the bloodstream. Hormones Endocrine Function are chemical messengers that affect the activity of another part of the body. Thyroid hormone regulates the rate at which the body functions (metabolic rate).

Locating the Thyroid Gland

Locating the Thyroid Gland

Causes of Congenital Goiter

Congenital goiters may be caused by the following:

  • Defective production of thyroid hormone

  • Antibodies from the mother that cross the placenta and affect the thyroid

  • Drugs the mother takes in during the pregnancy (called goitrogens) that cross the placenta

The thyroid gland Overview of the Thyroid Gland secretes thyroid hormone. Any thyroid gland disorder that decreases production of thyroid hormone causes the pituitary gland Overview of the Pituitary Gland to secrete more thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). If a disorder prevents the thyroid gland from responding normally by increasing hormone output, the increased stimulation by TSH causes the thyroid gland to enlarge. There are many genetic abnormalities that decrease the thyroid gland's ability to produce thyroid hormone and cause congenital goiter.

Women who have certain thyroid disorders such as Graves disease Graves disease Thyroid disorders may be present before women become pregnant, or they may develop during pregnancy. Being pregnant does not change the symptoms of thyroid disorders. How the fetus is affected... read more sometimes produce antibodies that cross the placenta during pregnancy. These antibodies interact with the receptor for TSH and can cause the fetus to produce too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism ) or too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism in the Newborn ). But in both cases, a goiter may result. In affected infants, the goiter typically resolves spontaneously within 3 to 6 months.

Drugs such as amiodarone, propylthiouracil, iodine, and methimazole taken by the mother can cross the placenta and may rarely cause congenital goiter.

Symptoms of Congenital Goiter

The most common symptom of congenital goiter is firm and symmetric enlargement of the thyroid. There is no tenderness. The entire gland may be enlarged or only portions of it. It may be noticeable at birth or detected later. If the enlargement continues, infants may have difficulty breathing and swallowing. Many infants with goiters have a normally functioning thyroid gland. However, some infants develop hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

Diagnosis of Congenital Goiter

  • Ultrasonography

  • Blood tests

If doctors suspect the infant has a goiter, they do ultrasonography Ultrasonography Ultrasonography to measure the size of the thyroid.

Treatment of Congenital Goiter

  • Sometimes hormone therapy

  • Surgery

Infants who have hypothyroidism are given replacement thyroid hormone therapy by mouth.

Goiters that cause breathing and swallowing difficulty can be treated surgically.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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