What Are Thyroid Nodules and How Are They Treated?

Young man pulping his inflamed neck, close up The thyroid is a gland that surrounds your windpipe. It releases various hormones to regulate metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. Thyroid nodules are a treatable medical condition involving abnormal lumps on this gland. They are typically non-cancerous, but you should get a proper diagnosis and may need treatment.

What Causes Thyroid Nodules?

Thyroid nodules can have many causes, such as:

  • Iodine deficiency
  • Fluid build-up
  • Tissue overgrowth
  • Chronic thyroid inflammation
  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Thyroid cancer

How Are Thyroid Nodules Diagnosed?

Dr. David Volpi can often feel these nodules by physically examining your thyroid gland’s movement as you swallow. He may also look for symptoms of a hyperactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) like:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Tremors

He will also check for symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) like:

  • Facial swelling
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Dry skin

If the physical exam identifies potential nodules, he may order an ultrasound, thyroid function test, needle biopsy, or other diagnostic test to confirm.

What Are the Risks of Thyroid Nodules?

Thyroid nodules can grow large. When they do, they can block breathing and make swallowing difficult. In rare cases of cancer, it can spread, causing voice damage and death.

How Are Thyroid Nodules Treated?

Depending on the cause and type, here is a look at thyroid nodule treatments.

Benign (non-cancerous) nodules treated with:

  • Regular checkups to watch for changes
  • Thyroid hormone therapy
  • Surgery

Hyperthyroidism-causing nodules may require:

  • Radioactive iodine taken in capsule or liquid
  • Thyroid nodule reduction medications, such as methimazole (Tapazole), which may be needed for a lifetime
  • Surgery if the first two didn’t reduce the nodules significantly

Cancerous thyroid nodules typically grow very slowly, so it is important to have regular checkups. You may need a surgery called a thyroidectomy to remove the thyroid. Once the thyroid is removed, you will need lifelong thyroid therapy with thyroid hormones in the form of levothyroxine. Alcohol ablation is an alternative to surgery in which alcohol is injected into the node to cause it to waste away.

Do Not Ignore the Signs

If you are having trouble swallowing or breathing or have other symptoms listed, it is time to schedule an appointment to see Dr. Volpi at New York ENT to find out if you have thyroid nodules. Call our New York, NY, office now at 212-873-6036 or use our convenient online form.

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