Thyroid Nodules: Why Lumps In The Neck May Develop And When They Require Treatment

Lifestyle & Health

What are thyroid nodules?

Thyroid nodules are growths in the thyroid gland that are usually small and non-cancerous. They are usually caused by excess growth of normal thyroid tissue. Thyroid nodules don't cause symptoms in most cases, but if they grow big enough, they can press on the windpipe or esophagus, making it difficult to breathe or swallow. Sometimes, thyroid nodules make thyroxine, which is a hormone that your thyroid normally produces, leading to symptoms of overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

In many cases, thyroid nodules don't need treatment. But if they create problems, then surgery, radioactive iodine, or other treatments may be used.

Symptoms of thyroid nodules

If you have a thyroid nodule (or nodules) and it's small and doesn't make hormones, you'll likely have no symptoms.

If nodules become larger, they can interfere with breathing and swallowing, cause visible swelling and/or pain at the base of the neck, and make your voice hoarse.

If thyroid nodules make hormone, excess thyroid hormone in your body can produce the following symptoms:

  • losing weight without trying;
  • increased sweating;
  • tremors;
  • feeling unusually nervous;
  • fast or irregular heartbeat.

Such symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor.

Causes of thyroid nodules

It's now always clear why thyroid nodules form. However, there are things that are known to cause them to develop. They include the following:

  • insufficient iodine intake;
  • non-cancerous excess growth of normal thyroid tissue (thyroid adenoma);
  • thyroid cysts;
  • chronic inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis), which is often caused by Hashimoto's disease;
  • rarely, thyroid cancer.

Treatment of thyroid nodules

If your thyroid nodules are small and don't cause symptoms, they will likely need no treatment.

Treatment of thyroid nodules depends on their size, cause, and symptoms that they produce and may involve the following:

  • surgical removal, if nodules are large, cancerous, or produce hormones;
  • anti-thyroid medicines to decrease hormone-producing activity of the nodules;
  • radioactive iodine to shrink hormone-producing nodules and reduce symptoms that they cause;
  • alcohol ablation, which involves injecting small amounts of alcohol directly into cancerous nodules.

Each treatment has its own benefits and risks. Your doctor will tell you about treatment options available for you and recommend the one that will work best for you personally.

Source: Mayo Clinic, HealthLine, WebMD

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This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.