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What are Thyroid Nodules? Know its Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What are Thyroid Nodules? Know its Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Max Lab

Dec 22, 2023

Thyroid nodules are growths that form in the thyroid gland located in the front of the throat. It's possible for a person to have one or multiple nodules. Nodular thyroid disease may not present any symptoms, but individuals might feel a lump in the neck. Thyroid nodules can indicate iodine deficiency and other health issues. These nodules develop when thyroid cells accumulate in the thyroid gland. Some individuals may notice cystic nodules in their thyroid gland by feeling them in the neck, but most people won't be aware of a thyroid nodule until it is detected by a doctor. 

What are Thyroid Nodules?

A thyroid nodule is an unusual lump or growth of cells on a person's thyroid gland. The human thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped endocrine gland situated in the neck, beneath the Adam's apple. It is responsible for producing the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which play a key role in various bodily functions such as metabolism, body temperature regulation, mood and excitability, pulse and heart rate, and digestion. Thyroid nodules are categorised as cystic (fluid-filled), solitary (a single nodule), multiple (more than one nodule), and solid. 

What are the Causes of Thyroid Nodules?

Many medical conditions can lead to thyroid nodules, which include:

Iodine deficiency

Iodine is a necessary component of the diet, as the body relies on it to produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormone. In cases of iodine deficiency, an individual may develop a goitre, which is an enlarged thyroid that requires treatment. Additionally, iodine deficiency can further lead to the formation of nodules in the thyroid gland. 

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system targets the thyroid gland. This condition raises the likelihood of developing thyroid nodules. Risk factors related to Hashimoto's thyroiditis may include:

  • having a family history of thyroid disease
  • being in the age range of 40-60 years (although it can also affect younger individuals)
  • being female
  • having an existing autoimmune condition like rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes


It has been observed that over 90% of nodules found in the thyroid are noncancerous, although there is a possibility that some of them may be cancerous. Thyroid cancer includes various types, each with distinct treatment options and prognoses. Risk factors for thyroid cancer are:

  • being a female
  • falling within the age range of 25 to 65 years
  • being of Asian descent
  • exposure to radiation to the neck or head during childhood
  • any family history of thyroid cancer, goitre, or another thyroid disease
  • specific genetic conditions such as familial medullary thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer, initially, may not exhibit any signs or symptoms. However, as a tumour grows larger, it could lead to:

  • difficulty in breathing
  • pain or problem when swallowing
  • a hoarse voice

Individuals who are experiencing any of these symptoms should seek medical advice from a doctor to identify the underlying cause. 

What are the Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules?

Most thyroid nodules don’t cause symptoms. However, if a man or woman has several or large nodules, following thyroid nodule symptoms can be seen in them.

In rare instances, nodules can grow large enough to produce the following symptoms:

  • difficulty with swallowing or breathing
  • hoarseness or changes in voice
  • pain in the front of the neck
  • expansion of the thyroid gland (goitre)

Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules can result in the overproduction of thyroid hormones, a condition known as hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:

  • weight reduction
  • rapid heartbeat (palpitations)
  • feeling shaky and/or nervous
  • increased appetite
  • diarrhoea and more frequent bowel movements
  • enlarged thyroid gland (goitre)
  • light or missed menstrual periods
  • difficulty in sleeping

Thyroid nodules can also be linked to low thyroid hormone levels, a condition called hypothyroidism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

  • constipation
  • fatigue
  • numbness and tingling in one's hands
  • depression
  • weight gain
  • dry, coarse skin and hair
  • frequent, heavy menstrual periods

Tests For Thyroid Nodule Diagnosis

If a provider finds a nodule or there are symptoms of a nodule, the following tests may be done:

  • TSH blood test and other thyroid blood tests
  • thyroid scan (nuclear medicine)
  • thyroid ultrasound
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy of the nodule or of multiple nodules is performed, at times with special genetic testing on the nodule tissue.   

Treatment For Thyroid Nodules In The Thyroid Gland

Treatment depends on the type of thyroid nodule in the gland like cystic, multinodular goitre, thyroid cancer, etc. The treatment options include: -

No treatment/watch and wait

If the nodules are determined to be benign, one’s healthcare provider might decide that no immediate treatment is necessary. However, the person will have regular check-ups with their doctor to monitor any changes in the nodules. 

Radioactive iodine

A person's healthcare provider might use radioactive iodine to treat hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules and goitres with multiple nodules. The thyroid gland absorbs the radioactive iodine, which leads to the shrinking of the nodules. 


Surgery is the most effective treatment for nodules that are cancerous, cause obstructive symptoms such as breathing or swallowing difficulties, and are classified as "suspicious" (meaning they cannot be analysed without being surgically removed and examined). 

If an individual notices a bump on their throat, it is significant to visit their healthcare provider. While most thyroid nodules are noncancerous and may not cause additional symptoms, it is still essential to have the nodule examined, considering the slight possibility of it being cancerous. 

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