Thyroid Nodules Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Thyroid Nodules

Globally renowned, Tampa General Hospital’s Parathyroid & Thyroid Institute offers a full spectrum of care to patients with thyroid nodules and related conditions. A thyroid nodule is a fluid-filled or solid lump that develops within the thyroid gland at the base of the neck.

Most thyroid nodules—nearly 95%—are benign (not cancerous). Thyroid nodules are especially common among women and are usually harmless, although symptoms can arise if multiple nodules occur or a nodule presses against surrounding structures in the neck. Around 50% of all people develop a thyroid nodule by age 60, although most never know it.

What Causes Thyroid Nodules?

What exactly causes a nodule to develop in the thyroid gland is sometimes unclear. Many cases are linked to:

  • An excess growth of thyroid tissue (adenoma)
  • Chronic thyroid inflammation (thyroiditis)
  • An autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • An iodine deficiency

What are the symptoms of a Thyroid Nodule?

Most thyroid nodules don't produce obvious symptoms. However, if multiple nodules develop or a nodule grows especially large, symptoms may include:

  • A noticeably enlarged thyroid gland, known as goiter
  • Trouble swallowing comfortably
  • Pain around the base of the neck
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Changes in voice
  • If a thyroid nodule is hyperfunctioning—meaning it creates excess thyroid hormones—the following symptoms may occur:

    • Weight loss
    • Nervousness
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
    • Muscle weakness

    Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules can also lead to a condition called hyperthyroidism, which requires medical and often surgical treatment.

    How Is a Thyroid Nodule Diagnosed?

    Because most thyroid nodules don’t produce symptoms, many nodules are detected by medical professionals during routine exams or when treating other conditions. Several tests may be performed to confirm the presence of a nodule and rule out cancer, including:

    • A blood test to check thyroid hormone levels
    • A thyroid ultrasound to view images of the thyroid gland
    • A fine-needle biopsy to draw out a small sample of cells for examination under a microscope

    How Are Thyroid Nodules Treated?

    A thyroid nodule that’s benign and asymptomatic usually doesn’t require treatment and may go away on its own. However, surgery to remove one or more nodules may be recommended if a nodule is hyperfunctioning or preventing a person from speaking, swallowing or breathing normally.

    The latest advances and minimally invasive approaches in thyroid nodule treatment are put into daily practice at TGH’s Parathyroid & Thyroid Institute, where world-renowned specialists and thyroid surgeons— Dr. Douglas Politz and Dr. José Lopez—provide compassionate and well-rounded care to patients with various types of thyroid disorders.

    Become a Patient at TGH

    Call (813) 844-8335 or complete a patient intake form online to schedule your fee-free consultation at TGH’s Parathyroid & Thyroid Institute. TGH is proud to be recognized as One of the Nation's Best Hospitals for Ear, Nose & Throat by U.S. News & World Report 2023-24.