You probably don’t give much thought to your thyroid — a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck — yet the hormones this gland produces control important functions, such as metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature.
So, when you learn that up to half of people have thyroid nodules, you begin to understand that the symptoms of such a condition can be hard to ignore. Luckily, most of these nodules — about 90% — are clinically insignificant, but the remaining 10% do become problematic.
At Houston Sinus Surgery, ear, nose, and throat experts Dr. Cecil Yeung and Dr. Marcus Hershey have considerable experience helping patients with problematic thyroid nodules.
To help you figure out whether you might have symptomatic nodules, we’re going to review this condition and its possible warning signs.
Thyroid nodule basics
As we mentioned, thyroid nodules are incredibly common and, thankfully, most people are unaware that the condition even exists. This is because nodules, which can be growths of thyroid tissue or fluid-filled cysts, are typically quite small and mostly benign.
That said, thyroid cancer is found in 8% of the thyroid nodules in men and 4% in women. While this risk is small, it’s still worth understanding the warning signs of problematic thyroid growths because, as with all cancers, early detection can make a big difference.
Recognizing a problematic thyroid nodule
Thyroid nodules can cause very different symptoms, depending on the effect that the growth has on the gland and its function.
In most cases, a nodule makes itself known if it grows too large, which can lead to:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Problems with breathing
- Changes in your voice, including hoarseness
- A pressure in your neck
You can sometimes see a visible lump in the front of your neck.
In rare cases, a thyroid nodule becomes toxic — a toxic adenoma — which means it produces extra thyroid hormones. When this happens, you can develop hyperthyroidism, which can lead to:
- Rapid heart rate
- Excessive sweating
- Weight loss
Even more rare than a toxic adenoma is when a thyroid nodule interferes with thyroid hormone production, which can lead to symptoms that are the opposite of hyperthyroidism, such as fatigue and weight gain.
Next steps for problematic thyroid nodules
Please see us if you recognize any of the symptoms we described above. After reviewing your symptoms, we use advanced imaging to check for thyroid nodules. If we find one or more, we develop the best treatment plan.
For example, if the nodule is large and interfering with function in your neck, we may recommend removing the growth. Of course, the tissues are tested after removal to check for abnormal or cancerous cells.
If you have a small, toxic thyroid nodule, we may recommend placing you on medications that can control your hyperthyroidism.
Before we dive any further into treatment options, let’s put first things first: You should schedule an evaluation with us if you think you might have a problematic thyroid nodule. To get started, please call 832-648-4792 or book an appointment online with Houston Sinus Surgery today.