We’re going to kick this off by getting straight to the question the title poses about whether thyroid nodules are common — yes, they are. The American Thyroid Association reports that about 50% of people have a thyroid nodule by age 60.
Given this prevalence, it makes sense to understand some basics about this condition — what puts people at risk for nodules and how you can tell if you have one. As an endocrinologist who specializes in thyroid disease, Dr. Sean P. Nikravan can answer these questions.
What exactly are thyroid nodules?
In the simplest of explanations, a thyroid nodule is a growth in your thyroid, which is a butterfly-shaped gland found at the front of your neck.
There are a few different types of thyroid growths, including:
- Fluid-filled cysts that don’t usually affect function
- Solid thyroid nodules
- Toxic adenomas, which are overactive nodules that produce hormones
No matter the type of growth, it’s important to note that most of these growths are benign. Thyroid cancer is found in only about 8% of nodules in men and 4% of the thyroid nodules found in women.
Why are thyroid nodules so common?
The short answer is that researchers don’t know why half of the population in the United States develops a growth by the time they reach age 60. That said, there are some risk factors, such as:
- Age: They’re more common as you get older
- Gender: Women are more likely to have thyroid nodules than men
- Genetics: Thyroid nodules tend to run in families
- Iodine deficiency: This isn’t very common in the US
Outside of iodine deficiency, these risk factors are fairly broad and they’re present in a large number of health conditions.
Recognizing the signs of thyroid nodules
Many people who have thyroid nodules are unaware of the condition because these growths are often asymptomatic. In the small number of cases where symptoms are present, physicians group them under two different categories:
If the growth becomes large enough or it’s located in a tricky spot, you can experience compressive symptoms such as:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Trouble breathing
- Changes in your voice
- Discomfort in your neck
Goiter is the term for any enlargement in your thyroid or an enlargement of the overall gland.
If you have a nodule that’s producing extra thyroid hormones, you may experience symptoms of hyperthyroidism, including:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Frequent bowel movements
If you suspect you have a thyroid nodule that’s causing some issues, it’s important to see us for a full evaluation. The good news is that thyroid nodules are highly treatable, and Dr. Nikravan is a leading expert in advanced excisional techniques like thyroid RFA.
For expert diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disease, please contact our office in Newport Beach, California, to set up a consultation with Sean P. Nikravan, MD.