Thyroid Nodule Causes & Symptoms
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid gland, located beneath the Adam’s apple on the front of the neck, regulates the hormones that control vital body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. It is shaped like a butterfly, with two small lobes on either side, resembling wings, and a center portion called the isthmus.
What are thyroid nodules?
Thyroid nodules are lumps that are solid or contain fluid, occurring in an otherwise normal thyroid gland. You may develop a single thyroid nodule or multiple thyroid nodules. Thy are extremely common in both adults and children, occurring in nearly 50% of the population at some point during their life. While thyroid nodules indicate neoplasm, or a tumor of the thyroid, they are rarely cancerous. The best way to detect a thyroid nodule is to undergo routine medical exams or see an ear, nose and throat doctor if you have a concern.
What are the common causes of thyroid nodules?
Thyroid nodules can occur for a number of reasons, including other diseases. Possible causes of thyroid nodules may include:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Iodine deficiency
- Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid)
- Thyroid cancer
What are some usual thyroid nodules symptoms?
The vast majority of people who have thyroid nodules do not experience any symptoms. However, sometimes those with thyroid nodules experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Chronic sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sudden, unexplained weight change
- Irregular heartbeat
- Trouble sleeping
- Visible neck swelling
- Difficulty breathing
- Hoarseness or voice changes
Sometimes the thyroid nodule can become enlarged or develop into other conditions, which produce specific symptoms. Complications of thyroid nodules include:
- Enlarged thyroid (goiter) may feel like a lump in the throat, and can be felt or seen in the neck. Enlarged nodules can also push against the windpipe, causing breathing-related symptoms.
- Hyperthyroidism causes the thyroid to work overtime and produce too much of the thyroid hormone. Symptoms of this include increased heartbeat, muscle weakness, and weight loss.
- Hypothyroidism means the thyroid is underactive prevents the thyroid from producing enough hormone for the body’s needs. Symptoms commonly associated with this include brittle nails, dry skin, constipation, and fatigue.
What are the risk factors for thyroid nodules?
Family history can increase a person’s chances of developing thyroid nodules. Those who have family members with thyroid conditions (e.g. hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, nodules) have a higher likelihood of developing thyroid nodules. Thyroid nodules are also more commonly experienced by women than men. However, the small portion of patients who have cancerous nodules tend to be male.
How are thyroid nodules diagnosed?
Because thyroid nodules don’t always have symptoms, you may not notice the condition until your doctor notices it during a physical exam. Nodules can be detected by symptoms expressed by the patient or by your doctor feeling for lumps on your neck. If a thyroid nodule is diagnosed, your doctor will likely recommend that you see an ear, nose and throat specialist, such as New York ENT, to properly diagnose the condition. Your New York ENT doctor may conduct one of the following tests, depending on the individual:
- Thyroid ultrasound – provides images of the nodule
- Blood tests – checks the levels of thyroid hormones
- Thyroid scan – measures the temperature of the nodule
- Fine needle aspiration – evaluates the nodule to rule out cancer
How are thyroid nodules treated?
Treatment options for thyroid nodules will depend on the type of nodule diagnosed. If your thyroid nodule is not cancerous or causing serious side effects, your doctor may only recommend close monitoring of the nodule through regular office visits.
On the other hand, if your nodule is cancerous or causing other serious conditions, your doctor may need to pursue other treatment options, including medication or surgery. Speak with your New York ENT doctor to determine the right treatment for you.
If you are suffering from thyroid nodules, the first step towards feeling better is to schedule an evaluation with an experienced ear, nose and throat doctor. Board certified physicians with New York ENT have extensive experience diagnosing and treating a wide variety of neck and throat conditions. Fill out the form on this page or call our office at (212) 873-6168 to schedule an appointment today.