Thyroid Nodules: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
A thyroid nodule is a solid or fluid-filled small lump that develops in your thyroid gland. Thyroid nodules are not dangerous. Only a small percentage of these nodules lead to cancer.
What Are the Causes of Thyroid Nodules?
Several medical conditions can cause thyroid nodules, which include:
- Overgrowth of thyroid tissue
- Thyroid cyst
- Iodine deficiency
- Multinodular goiter
- Chronic inflammation of the thyroid
- Thyroid cancer
What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules?
Thyroid nodules do not cause any symptoms in the early stages. However, if the nodules become large, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain at the base of your neck
- Hoarse voice
- Difficulty breathing
In some cases, your thyroid nodules may produce excess thyroid hormones and can cause hyperthyroidism symptoms such as:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Increased perspiration
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty sleeping
If you have an autoimmune thyroid condition, you may experience symptoms of hypothyroidism, which include:
- Brittle nails
- Persistent fatigue
- Unexplained weight gain
- Dry skin and hair
- Sensitivity to cold
How Are Thyroid Nodules Diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform one or more of the following tests to assess and diagnose your thyroid nodules:
1. Physical Examination
Your doctor will ask you to swallow because if you have a nodule in your thyroid gland, it will move up and down during swallowing. Also, they will check for signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
This imaging technique provides a clear structure and shape of nodules. This test is used to determine if multiple nodules are present or to distinguish cysts from solid nodules.
3. Thyroid Function Tests
These tests measure the blood levels of thyroid and thyroid-stimulating hormones. The test results will help your doctors know whether your thyroid gland is producing too much or too little thyroxine.
4. Thyroid Scan
Thyroid scan test is recommended if your thyroid is overactive and your doctor wants to know whether your thyroid nodules are hot or cold.
5. Fine-needle Aspiration Biopsy
This test distinguishes between malignant and benign thyroid nodules to ensure that no cancer is present.
How Are Thyroid Nodules Treated?
Thyroid nodules treatment options vary depending on the type of nodule you have.
The treatment options for benign thyroid nodules include:
1. Watchful Waiting
If your biopsy test result shows that you have a benign nodule, your doctor will closely watch your condition and perform a physical examination and thyroid function tests regularly. Treatment is not required if your benign nodule remains unchanged. However, if your nodule grows larger, you will need another biopsy test.
2. Thyroid Hormone Suppression Therapy
You will be given a levothyroxine pill, which signals the pituitary gland to produce less thyroid-stimulating hormone.
Surgery is required if your benign nodule is too large, or if you have large multinodular goiters or nodules diagnosed as suspicious or indeterminate by a biopsy test.
If your thyroid nodules cause hyperthyroidism, your treatment options may include:
1. Radioactive Iodine
You will be given radioactive iodine in a capsule or liquid form. Your thyroid gland absorbs the medicine, which causes your nodules to shrink and reduces the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism within a few weeks.
2. Anti-Thyroid Medications
Your doctor may recommend anti-thyroid medications to reduce hyperthyroidism symptoms.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if your thyroid nodules cannot be treated with the above two methods.
If your thyroid nodules are cancerous, your treatments may include:
Thyroidectomy procedure is recommended if your nodules are malignant.
5. Alcohol Ablation
Your doctor will inject a small amount of alcohol in the cancerous thyroid nodules to treat cancer. Multiple treatment sessions are required at regular intervals.
Can Thyroid Nodules Shrink on Their Own?
Most solid thyroid nodules will not shrink on their own. In such cases, your doctor may prescribe medicine or recommend surgery to remove the nodules or shrink a nodule by removing fluid from it with a thin needle.
What Foods to Avoid If You Have Thyroid Nodules
People with thyroid nodules should avoid foods such as:
- All varieties of millet
- Processed foods
- Soy foods
- Foods that contain gluten
- Fruits such as strawberries, peaches, and pears
- Alcohol, coffee, and green tea
- Cruciferous vegetables
How Can I Shrink My Thyroid?
Depending on the type of nodules you have, your doctor may recommend surgery or hormone suppression therapy to shrink your nodules.
Can Nodules Go Away on Their Own?
Mostly, nodules disappear on their own or stay the same size. Nodules are not dangerous and require no treatment as long as they don’t grow. Otherwise, your doctor may suggest treatments to shrink thyroid nodules.
If you want to get treated for thyroid nodules, contact us at 907-276-3676. At Far North Surgery - a trusted surgery center of Anchorage, Dr. Madhu Prasad and his team of doctors have all the expertise to treat nodular growth in your thyroid gland
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