Types and Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules

On the front of the neck, slightly above the sternum, your thyroid gland hugs your trachea. It’s commonly described as having the shape of a butterfly or a bow tie. If your thyroid is in good shape, you were probably unaware of its presence. There are, however, a number of disorders and diseases that can alter the way it appears and feels, making it more prominent and conspicuous. One of the most prevalent causes is a thyroid nodule.

Every year, millions of Americans are diagnosed with thyroid nodules. A thyroid nodule is a benign lump that has developed on your thyroid gland. Some thyroid nodules are made of solid tissue, while others are made of fluid. Depending on the underlying problem, you may require surgery or medication to be treated.

Types and Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules

Types of thyroid nodules

Thyroid nodules come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Over 90% of them are benign, which means they are not caused by cancer. Benign nodules might nonetheless be a sign that something is wrong. It is sometimes the primary symptom of an underlying sickness or thyroid condition. Your healthcare professional will advise you on the following actions based on the type of thyroid nodule you have.

Benign thyroid nodules

Knowing that your thyroid nodule is benign, or noncancerous, can provide you with a great deal of relief. However, you may still require therapy to keep it from damaging your health. The following are the most prevalent types of benign thyroid nodules:

Thyroid adenoma
A benign growth that has formed on your thyroid is known as a thyroid adenoma. Even if the phrase tumor raises concerns in your mind, you may rest assured that this type is not malignant.

Thyroid adenomas are classified into two types: dormant and active (also called toxic). If a thyroid adenoma is active, it may create thyroid hormones on its own, and often produces far more thyroid hormone than is required. It can lead to hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, as well as other health problems. Inactive thyroid adenomas, on the other hand, do not cause an increase in thyroid hormones in your body.

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Thyroid nodule
A cyst is a fluid-filled bump on the skin. Some have tissue in them as well. Thyroid cysts are often produced by a deteriorating thyroid adenoma. In most circumstances, they are harmless, but in rare cases, they may include malignant material. Thyroid cysts must be treated with fine needle aspiration treatment or they will not go away.

Goiter
Goiter is the most prevalent thyroid ailment in the United States, causing your thyroid gland to expand. Some patients may feel enlargement across their thyroid gland, while in other situations, multinodular goiter develops. Multinodular goiter is characterized by the presence of many nodules across the thyroid. The thyroid is frequently clearly or palpably swollen in both situations.

Malignant thyroid nodules

A malignant thyroid nodule is one that is cancerous. Thyroid cancer is uncommon, affecting just 15.5 persons out of every 100,000 in the United States. Thyroid cancer is classified into four types: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic. Each form of cancer can create a thyroid nodule, but their treatment methods and survival rates differ.

The most frequent kind of thyroid cancer is papillary thyroid carcinoma. It is caused by follicular cells in the thyroid gland and spreads quickly to the lymph nodes.

Follicular cells are also responsible for follicular thyroid cancer. Follicular thyroid cancer cells, unlike papillary thyroid cancer, do not generally move to your lymph nodes. Instead, it has a greater potential to go to distant organs, such as your lungs or bones.

According to the American Thyroid Association, follicular cells also generate medullary thyroid cancer, although genetics play a role in one out of every four instances. Thyroid cancer can be passed down via families. Because it might affect numerous members of the same family, it’s critical to identify if it’s caused by genetics after you’ve been diagnosed. It can aid in the detection of early stage malignancies in your family members, perhaps saving their lives.

Papillary, follicular, and medullary thyroid cancers are extremely curable when detected early, with over 100 percent of persons surviving at least five years. Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma, on the other hand, is a different tale.

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma is uncommon, yet it is far more aggressive than other types of thyroid cancer. It spreads more quickly and has a substantially poorer five-year survival rate than other thyroid malignancies. In fact, when found early, just 31% of persons with anaplastic thyroid cancer survive for five years or more. With more advanced stages of cancer, that number reduces considerably. Only 10% of those with anaplastic thyroid carcinoma that has advanced to the lymph nodes will live for at least five years, and that figure reduces to 3% if it progresses much farther. Fortunately, this lethal malignancy accounts for less than 2% of all thyroid cancer diagnosis.

Causes of thyroid nodules

A number of variables can impact the formation of thyroid nodules. Thyroid nodules can be caused by overgrowth of thyroid tissue, persistent inflammation, iodine shortage, or other risk factors. Thyroid nodules are far more common in those who are deficient in iodine. Thyroid nodules are also more common in those with Hashimoto’s disease. Cigarette smoking and nuclear radiation exposure both raise the risk of thyroid nodule and cancer.

Despite these links between thyroid nodules and putative causes, the majority of thyroid nodules have unidentified origins. Some doctors believe there is a correlation between stress and thyroid problems, although there is no proof of this as of yet.

Symptoms of thyroid nodules

There are various signs that a thyroid nodule is present. Some people may have a variety of symptoms, while others may have none at all. Here are some symptoms to check for if you suspect you have a thyroid nodule:

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Visible or palpable swelling in your neck
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in your neck or jaw
  • Anxiety
  • Weight changes (unexplained weight loss or gain) 
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hoarseness
  • Changes in your voice

The majority of these symptoms are bothersome but have little influence on your quality of life. Large nodules can cause neck deformities, pain, and even breathing or swallowing difficulties in certain circumstances. If you are having difficulties breathing or swallowing, you should seek emergency medical treatment. These symptoms, if left addressed, can have serious ramifications for your health.

When to worry about thyroid nodules

If you suspect a thyroid nodule, your doctor will need to assess you due to the potential of cancer and other health problems. It is critical that people with thyroid nodules contact a physician who specializes in thyroid illnesses. In this manner, an adequate appraisal of the nodules may be carried out.

A thyroid nodule can be diagnosed in a variety of ways by your healthcare practitioner. If you inform your doctor that you are in pain or discomfort, or that you have a lump on your neck, he or she will do a physical exam to palpate your thyroid.

In certain cases, your doctor may suspect a thyroid problem based on weight changes or abnormal blood test findings. In any situation, your doctor can request a range of tests to confirm your diagnosis and determine the cause. A thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test, a thyroid ultrasound, or a small needle aspiration biopsy may be required to assess your thyroid function.

If you’re concerned that you could have a thyroid nodule, you shouldn’t be. Thyroid nodules are malignant in a tiny percentage of cases. A biopsy might be ordered by your doctor to assess whether or not your thyroid nodule is malignant.

Thyroid nodules treatment

Thyroid nodule treatment options differ based on the reason. There is no need to treat thyroid nodules that aren’t causing harm to your health or raising concerns about malignancy. They can, however, induce hyperthyroidism, discomfort, and trouble swallowing or breathing if left untreated.

Surgery
If your thyroid gland is creating health problems, your doctor may need to surgically remove some or all of it. Thyroid surgery is the most intrusive treatment option for thyroid nodules, however it is not always required.

Medication
Benign nodules that induce hyperthyroidism can be treated with radioactive iodine in the form of an oral capsule. Radioactive iodine, when taken as prescribed by a doctor, decreases thyroid nodules in roughly three months. If that doesn’t work, your doctor may give methimazole to limit the quantity of thyroid hormone produced by your body.

Thyroidectomy
If all else fails, surgical removal of the thyroid, also known as a thyroidectomy, may be required. After a few hours of monitoring, the majority of the young and healthy patients are discharged from the hospital. However, if you have numerous comorbid diseases, you may be compelled to spend the night in the hospital. People with malignant or active thyroid nodules benefit the most from this treatment since it has the potential to cure their illness.

You should be ready to start even the most rigorous activities after about 10 days, but you will be reliant on medicine for the rest of your life. This is due to the fact that your body is unable to generate thyroid hormones once your thyroid has been removed. Synthroid (levothyroxine) or Unithroid will be prescribed by your doctor as a synthetic thyroid hormone replacement drug (levothyroxine). If you don’t take your thyroid medicine, you’ll get hypothyroidism, which has its own set of problems.

If you have thyroid problems, it’s always a good idea to consult your general care physician or an endocrinologist. In most cases, a little therapy goes a long way toward preventing more serious health problems.

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  1. January 26, 2022

    […] Types and Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules […]

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