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Thyroid nodules can form on the thyroid gland, which is located in the middle of the lower neck, below the larynx, and wraps around the front half of the trachea. You cannot always feel a normal thyroid gland. If you have large nodules that make it hard to breathe or swallow, you may need treatment for thyroid nodules in San Diego.
What Are Thyroid Nodules?
Thyroid nodules are solid or fluid-filled lumps that form within the thyroid. Most thyroid nodules are not noticed until your doctor discovers it during a routine medical exam. However, some thyroid nodules may become large enough to be visible or make it difficult to breathe or swallow.
Most thyroid nodules are not serious and do not cause symptoms. Although only a few nodules are cancerous, ask your doctor to evaluate any unusual swelling in your neck. They are quite common, with about half of all people getting at least a single nodule by the time they reach 60. Thyroid nodules are more common among women, but men are also at a high risk as they get older.
Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules
While most nodules do not show symptoms, some are so large that they can be seen, felt, or cause difficulty swallowing or breathing.
Some nodules trigger the thyroid to produce extra thyroxine, which leads to tremors, unexplained weight loss, nervousness, irregular heartbeat, or increased sweating.
Others cause the thyroid to have too little thyroxine, causing weight gain, fatigue, hoarseness, high cholesterol, depression, constipation, cold sensitivity, muscle weakness, and more.
Other symptoms include moodiness, diarrhea or frequent bowel movements, light or missed menstrual periods, hair loss, and sensitivity or sweating when exposed to high temperatures.
Causes of Thyroid Nodules
It is hard to pinpoint the definite cause of thyroid nodules. Sometimes, they form due to genetics. Others come from iodine deficiency, though this is rarely the case in the U.S.
In less than 5% of those who get thyroid nodules, the cause of the growth is cancer. Because of this, you should consult a doctor immediately if you notice a nodule or its symptoms.
Typical conditions that lead to thyroid nodules include the following:
- Thyroid cyst
- Overgrowth of normal thyroid tissue
- Thyroid cancer
- Chronic thyroid inflammation
- Iodine deficiency
- Multinodular goiter
Diagnosing Thyroid Nodules
Sometimes, you might feel the thyroid nodules below your neck, or your doctor may find them during a physical exam. However, the doctor will not be able to confirm them as such until any of the following tests show definite results:
- Thyroid scan – This test is used to assess the thyroid nodules. It involves injecting radioactive iodine into your arm vein, then monitoring the computer screen where your thyroid is shown.
- Thyroid hormone level test – This test is used to determine if you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
- Fine-needle biopsy of the thyroid gland – This test requires inserting a very thin needle in the thyroid nodule and obtaining a cell sample. It often takes around 20 minutes. The sample will be tested at a laboratory for analysis under a microscope.
There are several approaches to treating and managing thyroid nodules. Treatment options depend on the type of thyroid nodule you have. One option is not treating them and instead just monitoring to see if there are any changes. You will need to visit your doctor regularly. This approach is ideal for non-cancerous nodules.
Another option is surgery, which is the best choice for handling thyroid nodules that obstruct your breathing or swallowing. It is also recommended to remove nodules that are cancerous or have suspicious characteristics.
Do you think you need to have your thyroid nodules removed? Contact ENT Associates of San Diego to learn more about your condition. Schedule an appointment for a consultation about your thyroid nodules in San Diego today.