Thyroid nodules are lumps in the thyroid gland that may be solid or filled with fluid. They are usually noncancerous and rarely cause problems. In some cases, they may enlarge to the point of causing breathing and swallowing difficulties or stimulating overproduction of thyroid hormone.
Thyroid Nodule Indications
Many times, you may be completely unaware that you have nodules growing on your thyroid gland. They may be discovered inadvertently during a routine examination by your physician. If they grow large enough, they may be visible to the naked eye and, in some cases, can be felt. When thyroid nodules press against your windpipe or esophagus, they can cause you to have trouble breathing or swallowing.
Nodules sometimes produce additional thyroid hormone, which causes an imbalance that leads to hyperthyroidism. Symptoms include rapid heartbeat, weight loss, anxiety, tremors, irritability, excessive perspiration and intolerance to heat. These are the result of a sped-up metabolism. In rare cases, thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous.
Treatment for Thyroid Nodules
Thyroid nodules may develop due to a variety of conditions such as iodine deficiency, excess tissue growth, thyroid cysts, goiter (enlarged thyroid), Hashimoto’s disease (a thyroid disorder resulting in inflammation and reduced hormone production) and cancer. Heredity is also a factor; if thyroid nodules run in your family, you are more likely to have them.
Treatment depends on the size of the thyroid nodule and whether or not it’s cancerous. If a biopsy proves it’s benign and it isn’t causing any outward trouble, your doctor may suggest taking a wait-and-see approach. Unless it grows larger, treatment can be avoided.
Other times, it may be beneficial to remove benign nodules. This is usually accomplished through surgery or thyroid hormone suppression therapy. If nodules are causing hyperthyroidism, you’ll likely receive radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medication. Surgery is the option of choice for malignant (cancerous) thyroid nodules.
Call San Diego ENT at (858) 926-7010 for more information or to schedule an appointment.