Several conditions can cause nodules to develop in your thyroid gland:
April 04, 2014
- Iodine deficiency. Lack of iodine in your diet can sometimes cause your thyroid gland to develop thyroid nodules. But iodine deficiency is uncommon in the United States, where iodine is routinely added to table salt and other foods.
- Overgrowth of normal thyroid tissue. Why this occurs isn't clear, but such a growth — which is sometimes referred to as a thyroid adenoma — is noncancerous and isn't considered serious unless it causes bothersome symptoms from its size. Some thyroid adenomas (autonomous or hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules) produce thyroid hormones outside of your pituitary gland's normal regulatory influence, leading to an overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism).
- Thyroid cyst. Fluid-filled cavities (cysts) in the thyroid most commonly result from degenerating thyroid adenomas. Often, solid components are mixed with fluid in thyroid cysts. Cysts are usually benign, but they occasionally contain malignant solid components.
- Chronic inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis). Hashimoto's disease, a thyroid disorder, can cause thyroid inflammation resulting in nodular enlargement. This often is associated with reduced thyroid gland activity (hypothyroidism).
- Multinodular goiter. "Goiter" is a term used to describe any enlargement of the thyroid gland, which can be caused by iodine deficiency or a thyroid disorder. A multinodular goiter contains multiple distinct nodules within the goiter, but its cause is less clear.
- Thyroid cancer. Although the chances that a nodule is malignant are small, you're at higher risk if you have a family history of thyroid or other endocrine cancers, are younger than 30 or older than 60, are a man, or have a history of radiation exposure, particularly to the head and neck. A nodule that is large and hard or causes pain or discomfort is more worrisome in terms of malignancy.
- Thyroid nodules. American Thyroid Association. http://thyroid.org/wp-content/uploads/patients/brochures/Nodules_brochure.pdf. Accessed Nov. 18, 2013.
- Ross DS. Diagnostic approach to and treatment of thyroid nodules. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 18, 2013.
- Ross DS. Overview of thyroid nodule formation. http://www.uptodate.com/home/. Accessed Nov. 18, 2013.
- Approach to the patient with a thyroid nodule. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine_and_metabolic_disorders/thyroid_disorders/approach_to_the_patient_with_a_thyroid_nodule.html?qt=4.%09Approach to the patient with a thyroid nodule&alt=sh. Accessed Nov. 18, 2013.
- Cooper DS, et al. Revised American Thyroid Association management guidelines for patients with thyroid nodules and differentiated thyroid cancer. Thyroid. 2009;19:1167.
- Lalwani AK. Current Diagnosis & Treatment in Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=39. Accessed Nov. 18, 2013.
- Doherty GM, ed. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Surgery. 13th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2010. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=23. Accessed Nov. 18, 2013.
- Ross DS. Cystic thyroid nodules. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 18, 2013.
- Goiter. American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org.php54-1.ord1-1.websitetestlink.com/what-is-a-goiter/. Accessed Nov. 18, 2013.
- Thyroid cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/thyroidcancer/detailedguide/index. Accessed Nov. 18, 2013.
- Nippoldt TB (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 19, 2013.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.