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Common Thyroid Problems

The thyroid gland is prone to several distinct problems. Problems can be broken down into: those concerning the production of hormone (too much, or too little); those due to increased growth of the thyroid causing compression of important neck structures or simply appearing as a mass in the neck; the formation of nodules or lumps within the thyroid which are worrisome for the presence of thyroid cancer, and those which are cancerous.

A thyroid goiter is a dramatic enlargement of the thyroid gland. Goiters are often removed because of cosmetic reasons or, more commonly, because they compress other vital structures of the neck including the trachea and the esophagus making breathing and swallowing difficult. Sometimes goiters will actually grow into the chest where they can cause trouble as well. X-rays will help explain all types of thyroid goiter problems.

Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is a fairly common malignancy, however, the vast majority have excellent long term survival.

Solitary Thyroid Nodules
There are several characteristics of solitary nodules of the thyroid which make them suspicious for malignancy. Although as many as 50 percent of the population will have a nodule somewhere in their thyroid, the overwhelming majority of these are benign. Occasionally, thyroid nodules can take on characteristics of malignancy and require either a needle biopsy or surgical excision. 

Hyperthyroidism means too much thyroid hormone. Current methods used for treating a hyperthyroid patient are radioactive iodine, antithyroid drugs or surgery. Each method has advantages and disadvantages and is selected for individual patients. Many times the situation will suggest that all three methods are appropriate, while other circumstances will dictate a single best therapeutic option. Surgery is the least common treatment selected for hyperthyroidism.

Thyroiditis is an inflammatory process ongoing within the thyroid gland. Thyroiditis can present with a number of symptoms such as fever and pain, but it can also present as subtle findings of hypo or hyperthyroidism. There are a number of causes, some more common than others.