Thyroid Disease (cont.)

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What types of thyroid disease can occur when the structure of the thyroid is affected?

Structural problems with the thyroid gland can occasionally result in altered function. For example, toxic multinodular goiter or toxic nodules (adenomas) can lead to hyperthyroidism. However, in most cases, structural problems occur in a thyroid with normal function. These conditions range from simple benign cysts to more serious problems such as thyroid cancers. Papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic types of thyroid cancer may arise. Enlargement of the thyroid gland for any reason is referred to as a goiter. A goiter can range in size from hardly noticeable to large enough to require surgical removal. Finally, the actual location of the thyroid can be in an abnormal area of the body due to developmental abnormalities.

What signs and symptoms can occur if thyroid structure is affected?

  • Depending on the size and location of the gland, symptoms can include compression of the trachea and/or esophagus leading to trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • The gland may be so enlarged that it may become cosmetically unappealing.
  • If the gland increases in size rapidly (such as bleeding into a cyst) there may be local pain.
  • If the underlying problem is cancer, there may be enlargement of lymph nodes, and more systemic symptoms such as weight loss, night sweats and changes in appetite.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/7/2013

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