Your thyroid plays a crucial part in the healthy and normal functioning of your body. Everything from your breathing to your ability to gain or lose weight is influenced by the hormones that it produces. Because of the role your thyroid plays, it is not surprising that it is prone to its share of diseases and complications. One of the most common is thyroid nodules. In this blog, Texas Thyroid & Parathyroid Center in Austin will discuss this common thyroid condition.

What Is A Thyroid Nodule?

Generally speaking, a thyroid nodule is a lump that develops on your thyroid gland. Nodules can fill with tissue or fluid from the thyroid. These growths can occur on any part of the thyroid gland, making some of them easy to detect by simply feeling the lump in your neck, while others are hidden within the gland itself. While many nodules are benign, or non-cancerous, approximately 10 percent of them are. It is important to have your nodules detected and tested to ensure that they are not malignant.

How Does a Doctor Diagnosis Thyroid Nodules?

Unless your nodule develops into a noticeable goiter, it is likely that you will not realize you have thyroid nodules until they have been detected by a doctor. Typically, your doctor might first notice a nodule while conducting a routine examination of your neck and thyroid gland. If your doctor suspects you may have a thyroid nodule, they may have you undergo an ultrasound to get an idea of the size and position of the nodule. Likely, they’ll follow up by taking a sample and testing for cancer.

Sampling a nodule for later testing is called fine needle aspiration. This procedure is carried out by a thyroid surgeon and is done using a very small needle. The nodule is aspirated and cells are collected at the end of the needle. These cells are then examined and tested for cancer. thanks to modern technology, thyroid surgeons are more accurately recognizing and diagnosing thyroid nodules. Experts now believe that thyroid nodules are the most common endocrine problem in the United States, with most adults developing one at least once in their lifetime.

What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Nodules?

Because they generally grow on the thyroid, nodules do not often cause any noticeable symptoms. In cases where the nodule is growing within the thyroid itself, it can influence the gland’s ability to regulate its production of hormones. Often, the result is that your thyroid becomes overactive. In this case, you might experience symptoms like:

  • A sense of anxiousness or nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Increased sensitivity to higher temperatures
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shaking or the inability to sit still
  • Hair loss
  • Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
  • Rapid weight loss

Depending on the size of the nodule, some patients have experienced difficulty breathing, struggling to swallow, a hoarse or raspy voice, and neck pain.

What Causes Thyroid Nodules To Develop?

There are several factors that can influence the development of nodules on your thyroid. In many cases, a nodule is the result of a combination of multiple causes. Generally, nodules run in family, so they have a basis in your genetic makeup. Typically, thyroid nodules are found more frequently in women than in men and increases with age. Some known causes for thyroid nodules include:

  • Iodine deficiency: Patients with an insufficient amount of iodine in their diet may develop nodules. This is less common in the United States, as iodine is often added to table salt and food products.
  • Thyroid cyst: A fluid-filled cavity can result from a degenerating growth on the thyroid. These cysts are made up of both solids and fluids from the thyroid itself. Cysts are typically benign but may be harmful to your health if they are made up of malignant solids.
  • Thyroiditis: If you suffer from Hashimoto’s disease, you may experience regular inflammation of the thyroid. This inflammation can cause the nodules on the thyroid to enlarge. Typically this occurs alongside other conditions like hypothyroidism.
  • Thyroid cancer: While most nodules are non-cancerous, the can be a sign of endocrine cancer. A nodule that is large and painful may be the direct result of thyroid cancer.

What Are My Treatment Options For Thyroid Nodules?

Because most thyroid nodules are not cancerous, your general practitioner may have you work with a thyroid surgeon to monitor the size and condition of the nodule. This can be done with physical examinations and an annual ultrasound. In many cases, this is a sufficient management routine. However, if the nodule continues to expand and develop, or if it begins to cause discomfort or prevent breathing and swallowing, your endocrinologist may suggest undergoing surgery to remove the growth.

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort from a thyroid nodule, contact Texas Thyroid & Parathyroid Center in Austin and schedule an appointment. Dr. Kroeker is a leading member of the Austin medical community and is an experienced thyroid surgeon. Contact our clinic now.