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What Does An Enlarged Thyroid Feel Like

What Is A Thyroid Goiter

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Thyroid goiter is a condition where there is an abnormal enlargement of your thyroid gland. The photo here shows how many thyroid goiters look, which is like the neck is swolen and fat. When you touch it, you can tell it isnt fat since it is firm and doesnt move much. Most thyroid goiters are painless, but they may produce symptoms due to their size itself. The most common symptom from a thyroid goiter is a lump in the neck. Other symptoms from a large thyroid goiter may include a sense of a lump in the throat, difficultly swallowing, difficulty breathing and even in extreme cases, voice changes and even vocal cord paralysis.

World wide, the most common cause of thyroid goiter is in locations where iodine in the diet is low or non-existent. This was similarly the case in the United States where thyroid goiter was commonplace until the contemporary iodination of table salt. Since then, the incidence of thyroid goiters have drastically been reduced in the United States.

Today, in the United States, thyroid goiter is more commonly associated with too much production of thyroid hormone , too little production of thyroid hormone , or multiple nodules within the thyroid gland itself .

There are two autoimmune conditions that can be causes of thyroid goiter.

Hashimotos thyroiditis.

Graves disease.

Symptoms Of Thyroid Goiters

Most thyroid goiters don’t cause symptoms, but they will if the goiter continues to grow. In fact, small thyroid goiters may more commonly be detected by routine examination of the patient’s neck by a doctor or by some type of screening x-ray or scan for some other reason. The symptoms occur as the goiter becomes big enough that it presses on other structures in the neck.

Larger thyroid goiters most commonly produce symptoms of

  • A mass or lump in the neck.
  • Uncomfortable pressure sensation on the breathing tube
  • A sense of feeling like you need to swallow something or difficulty swallowing
  • Excess production of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine which include:
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate

How Are Goiters And Thyroid Nodules Diagnosed

Goiters and thyroid nodules are often found by families and doctors by looking at and touching the neck. Lab tests and a thyroid ultrasound can give doctors a good idea of what’s going on. If a thyroid nodule is found, extra testing is sometimes needed.

A fine-needle biopsy might be done to see whether a nodule is cancerous. During the biopsy, the doctor inserts a thin needle through the skin into the thyroid nodule . Through the needle, the doctor takes a sample of tissue or some fluid from a cyst. The tissue or fluid is then sent to a lab. In some cases, the nodule might have to be surgically removed for more a detailed examination.

Some thyroid nodules make too much hormone and so another test, a thyroid scan, might be done. For this test, a person swallows a pill containing a small amount of radioactive iodine or another radioactive substance. The thyroid absorbs the radioactive substance. Then a special camera measures where the radioactive substance is taken up by the thyroid gland. This gives the doctor a better picture of the location, size, and type of thyroid nodule.

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What Is A Swollen Thyroid

Anatomically speaking, the thyroid gland, located at the front portion of the neck, is part of the endocrine body system. A swollen thyroid or medically termed as goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Furthermore, people who suffer from a swollen thyroid are occasionally battling against hypothyroidism. However, there are actually a lot of reasons which cause the thyroid gland to swell. These reasons will be explained later in the discussion on the causes for a swollen thyroid.

Is It Menopause Or Thyroid Disorder

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Thyroid disorders can cause symptoms that are mistaken for those of a woman approaching menopause. Both menstrual cycle changes and mood changes can result from the menopausal transition or from thyroid conditions. Blood tests can determine which of these conditions is responsible for your symptoms. It’s also possible to have a combination of the two causes.

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Causes: Pituitary Gland Problems

Thyroid disease may begin in the pituitary gland. The pituitary is located at the base of your brain. It controls the functions of many other glands in the body, including the thyroid. This gland produces TSH, which signals the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones.

If there is a problem with your pituitary and not enough TSH is produced, thyroid problems can result. Inflammation of the thyroid and taking certain medications can also cause low thyroid hormone levels.

Thyroid Nodule Symptom # : A Lump In The Neck That You Can Feel

  • What to do about it?
  • Thyroid nodules that the patient can feel under the skin, which is confirmed by a doctor should almost always be examined by an ultrasound test. Depending on the characteristics of the nodule , the nodule may need a needle biopsy. We have an entire section of this website on thyroid needle biopsies.

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Feel The Bumps And Enlargements

Gently touch the area around your thyroid gland to try to palpate any enlargement, bumps, or protrusions. To differentiate between the thyroid and the other structures of your neck:

  • Slide your finger down the midline of your neck. The first hard structure you will hit is the thyroid cartilage leading to the Adams apple.
  • As you continue to move your finger downward, you will next encounter another bit of cartilage called the cricoid ring, which encircles the trachea .
  • Two digits below this is the thyroid isthmus . To each side of this are your thyroid glands.
  • Whats The Treatment For A Thyroid Nodule

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    Even a benign growth on your thyroid gland can cause symptoms. If a thyroid nodule is causing voice or swallowing problems, your doctor may recommend treating it with surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland.

    If the doctor recommends removal of your thyroid , you may not even have to worry about a scar on your neck. Some patients are good candidates for a scarless thyroid procedure, where the surgeon reaches the thyroid through an incision made on the inside of your lower lip.

    A newer alternative that the doctor can use to treat benign nodules in an office setting is called radiofrequency ablation . Radiofrequency ablation uses a probe to access the benign nodule under ultrasound guidance, and then treats it with electrical current and heat that shrinks the nodule. Its simple: Most people treated with RFA are back to their normal activities the next day with no problems.

    The Johns Hopkins Thyroid and Parathyroid Center

    Our thyroid experts in the head and neck endocrine surgery team diagnose and treat patients with a variety of thyroid and parathyroid conditions. Learn about what we offer at our center.

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    What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid In Females

    Lets look at some of the symptoms of thyroid problems in women.

    • Gaining weight. Sudden weight gain is one of the most telling symptoms of thyroid disorders.
    • Cholesterol levels that are too high.
    • Its both cold and hot.
    • Bloating is a problem for many people.
    • Palpitations are a form of heart palpitation.
    • Menstrual Problems
    • Mental Agility is poor.

    Follow Up With Your Doctor

    If you find lumps or protrusions of any sort, you should definitely let your doctor know. You may have an enlarged thyroid or a thyroid nodule that requires further evaluation. Follow up diagnostic tests may include an ultrasound, blood hormone tests, or a computerized tomography scan.

    Finding a thyroid nodule does not mean you have cancer. In fact, a 2018 study published in Academic Radiology concluded that only around 8% of thyroid nodules are ever cancerous.

    Thyroid Disease Doctor Discussion Guide

    Get our printable guide for your next doctor’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.

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    Thyroid Nodules: When To Worry

    Suppose you go to your doctor for a check-up, and, as shes feeling your neck, she notices a bump. Then, suppose she tells you theres a nodule on your thyroid. Is it time to panic?

    No, say experts at Johns Hopkins Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. Thyroid nodules even the occasional cancerous ones are treatable.

    Heres what you need to know about thyroid nodules and how concerned you should be if you develop one.

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    A blood test measures levels of thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone in your blood. The pituitary gland releases TSH to stimulate the thyroid to produce its hormones. High thyroxine and low TSH levels indicate that your thyroid gland is overactive.

    Your doctor might also give you radioactive iodine by mouth or as an injection, and then measure how much of it your thyroid gland takes up. Your thyroid takes in iodine to produce its hormones. Taking in a lot of radioactive iodine is a sign that your thyroid is overactive. The low level of radioactivity resolves quickly and isnt dangerous for most people.

    Treatments for hyperthyroidism destroy the thyroid gland or block it from producing its hormones.

    • Antithyroid drugs such as methimazole prevent the thyroid from producing its hormones.
    • A large dose of radioactive iodine damages the thyroid gland. You take it as a pill by mouth. As your thyroid gland takes in iodine, it also pulls in the radioactive iodine, which damages the gland.
    • Surgery can be performed to remove your thyroid gland.

    If you have radioactive iodine treatment or surgery that destroys your thyroid gland, you will develop hypothyroidism and need to take thyroid hormone daily.

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    What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Goiters And Thyroid Nodules

    A goiter is most often spotted because it’s in the very front of the neck and moves up and down when a person swallows. People with a goiter might have the sensation that food is stuck in the throat, especially when they lie down or sleep on their backs.

    But goiters often grow very slowly over months and years before being noticed. It can be hard even for parents who pay close attention to notice the change early.

    Sometimes a nodule can appear in a healthy gland. It may feel like a lump in the throat, or cause tenderness or pain in the front of the neck. A large nodule might be visible at the front of the neck. Some kids with thyroid nodules have pain in the front of the neck or feel like they have a lump in the throat.

    What Else Could It Be

    A lump in your thyroid could be caused by an infection or a goiter, which is an abnormal growth of the thyroid gland. It might not be cancerous at all. Lumps in the thyroid usually arenât.

    But itâs possible to have thyroid cancer without any symptoms at all.

    Your doctor will examine your thyroid during routine physical exams. If you have any symptoms between checkups, such as a new nodule on the gland or a rapidly growing one, you should make an appointment to have your thyroid gland checked. Your doctor will do several tests to diagnose the source of the problem and decide on the best treatment.

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    How Is A Thyroid Biopsy Performed

    A thyroid biopsy, also called a fine needle aspiration , uses a small needle to take a little sample of the cells in the thyroid nodule. The possible outcomes from a biopsy are:

    Non-diagnostic: Non-diagnostic is a technically failed biopsy. There were not enough cells taken during the biopsy so the cytologist was not able to determine anything. These usually need to be repeated.

    Benign: Most thyroid nodule biopsies come back benign, meaning your doctor is highly re-assured that it’s not cancerous. Patients can almost always avoid surgery unless the nodule is large and pushing on adjacent structures like the airway.

    Indeterminate: Indeterminate means there was enough cells taken during the biopsy, but the cytopathologist was not sure if it is benign or malignant. Indeterminate results occur in about 20% of thyroid biopsies. This is a gray zone and means that the risk of cancer is about 10-30%. These nodules require additional work-up such as a repeat biopsy, molecular marker test, or surgical removal.

    Suspicious for Malignancy or Malignant: Results categorized in these two categories are a strong indicator that there is cancer present and usually require surgical removal.

    Patients usually wait one week for the cytopathologist to examine the cellular characteristic of the biopsy sample. If your doctor is reassured that it’s benign based on the biopsy result, further work-up is stopped and serial ultrasound surveillance is recommended usually once a year.

    Goitres And Production Of Thyroid Hormones

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    • In many people with a goitre, the goitre does not affect the amount of thyroid hormones that you make. You are then euthyroid, which means you make the correct amount of these hormones.
    • In some people, the goitre is associated with an abnormality of thyroid function. You may make too much thyroid hormone or too little . This can be shown with a simple blood test of your thyroid function. See the separate leaflet called Thyroid Function Tests.

    Note: you can also develop an overactive or underactive thyroid without having a goitre.

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    What Causes Thyroiditis

    The thyroid can be attacked by different agents. The attacks cause inflammation and injury to the thyroid cells, leading to thyroiditis.

    Some of the agents known to cause thyroiditis are antibodies , drugs, radiation and organisms . Conditions in which the body attacks itself are autoimmune diseases. Thyroiditis can be an autoimmune disease .

    It is not certain why some people make thyroid antibodies. Thyroid disease is known to run in families. Thyroiditis can be caused by an infection or can be a side effect of certain drugs.

    Can Goitre Be Prevented

    To prevent goitre, you need the right amount of iodine in your diet. This substance occurs naturally in seawater and coastal soils, and is found in shellfish, seaweed and other foods. You can use iodised salt in your food. Most bread in Australia contains iodised salt, so eating bread regularly should help maintain your iodine levels.

    The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that women who are pregnant, considering becoming pregnant or breastfeeding should take a 150-microgram iodine supplement each day.

    Do not consume too much iodine, as that can also lead to a goitre.

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    Does Thyroid Affect Hair

    Hair loss may be caused by severe and long-term hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Rather than isolated regions, the loss is diffuse and affects the entire scalp. The hair seems to be thin all over. With effective thyroid disorder treatment, regrowth is common, but it may take several months and be incomplete.

    Very Large Thyroid Nodules

    Goiters, goiters &  more goiters

    Most thyroid nodules dont cause pain, but if a nodule becomes very large, it can cause pain or irritation in the throat, including difficulty swallowing or hoarseness. Thyroid nodules are usually too small to be felt, but if you can feel a thyroid lump or nodule, its very important to have your thyroid checked by your doctor.

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    Benefits And Limitation Of The Self

    An at-home self-exam known as the neck check can help you find thyroid lumps or enlargements on your own thyroid gland. These growths may point to any number of thyroid conditions from nodules and goiters to thyroid cancer.

    Lumps in the neck can be caused by thyroid disease, and they can also be caused by a variety of other conditions, such as lymph node enlargement, lymphoma, an infectious abscess, or a traumatic injury.

    In general, a neck check is not considered the most accurate or reliable way to identify thyroid disease. You can have serious thyroid disease if you have a completely normal neck check. On the other hand, a major growth can often be a sign of an easily treatable condition, such as an iodine deficiency.

    In the end, there are limitations as to what a neck check can tell you. A 2017 report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded that neck palpation was able to detect thyroid nodules in only 11.6% of cases. Ultrasound, an imaging procedure using sound waves, was five times more accurate in detecting abnormal growths.

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    Thyroid Nodule Symptom # : A Feeling Like Things Get Stuck In Your Throat Sometimes When Eating

    • What to do about it?
    • A thyroid nodule that causes any symptom of swallowing will need to be removed with surgery. The vast majority of these are simply large, benign goiters and only very few are cancerous. But like almost all thyroid nodules that cause symptoms, surgery will be necessary for this group. Many of these goiters won’t need a biopsy because it can be hard to get all the way to the back of the neck with a needle. Almost all of these will need a CAT scan to give the surgeon a better understanding of how big the goiter is and where it goes.

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    Other Causes Of Hyperthyroidism

    Hyperthyroidism can also result from thyroid nodules. These are lumps that develop inside the thyroid and sometimes begin producing thyroid hormones. Large lumps may create a noticeable goiter. Smaller lumps can be detected with ultrasound. A thyroid uptake and scan can tell if the lump is producing too much thyroid hormone.

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