What are nodules?
A nodule is a growth of abnormal tissue. Nodules can develop
just below the skin. They can also develop in deeper skin tissues or internal
organs. The thyroid gland and lymph nodes may develop nodules as well. People
can mistake other conditions for nodules, such as small cysts, boils, and
Common areas for nodules to form include the:
- head and neck region, including the vocal cords and
What symptoms may occur with nodules?
Depending on where the nodule is located, additional symptoms may be
present. Common symptoms of nodules include:
- pain in the area of the
- a hard and visible lump in
- abdominal discomfort if the
nodule is in the abdomen
- changes in your voice if the
nodule is on the vocal cord
you can have a nodule without any other symptoms.
Types of nodules
Lymph node nodules
Lymph nodes are a common location for nodules to form. Lymph nodes are small,
oval-shaped organs located throughout the body. They play an important role in
your body’s immune system. Lymph nodes that swell are often in the armpits,
groin, or head and neck region.
Vocal cord nodules
cord nodules are benign. Overuse or misuse of the voice often causes them.
Stomach acid irritating your voice box is another possible cause.
Lung nodules typically range from 0.5
to 3 cm in size, but
they can be larger. These nodules usually occur due to inflammation in
the lung. Disease or infection can cause the inflammation. Noncancerous nodules
usually don’t require treatment. Nodules over 3 cm in size are more likely to
be cancerous. Your doctor will come up with a plan with you to monitor these
nodules and determine when a biopsy is necessary.
Thyroid nodules have a variety of causes. The following are common types of thyroid nodules:
- Colloid nodules develop from a lack of
iodine, which is a mineral essential to the production of thyroid
hormones. These growths are noncancerous, but they may be large.
- Thyroid cysts are either filled with
fluid, or a mixture of fluid and solid tissue.
- Hyperfunctioning thyroid
produce thyroid hormone, which may cause hyperthyroidism.
- Multinodular goiter
the thyroid gland forms multiple nodules, which grow over time. It can
occur due to a lack of iodine in your diet, but most people with goiters
have a thyroid gland that functions normally.
- Thyroid cancer is another cause of
thyroid nodules, but most thyroid nodules aren’t cancerous. According to
Cleveland Clinic, less than 5 percent of thyroid nodules are
What are common causes of nodules?
The most common causes of nodules
Certain types of nodules develop on
scar tissue. For example, keloids are nodules that form when there’s an overgrowth of scar tissue over
an injury. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, 10 percent of people
Nodules can also develop in internal
tissues. For example, a granuloma is a small clump of cells that forms when tissue
is inflamed. Inflammation often occurs due to an infection or an autoimmune
reaction, which occurs when your body overreacts to its own tissues. Granulomas
commonly form in the lungs, but they can develop in other places as well.
Your thyroid gland is at the base of
your neck, just above your collarbone. The thyroid gland produces hormones that
regulate your metabolism and growth. Hyperthyroidism is a
condition in which your thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone. Sometimes, nodules
form that produce excess thyroid hormone, leading to hyperthyroidism.
Iodine is a mineral necessary for the production of thyroid hormones. When
your body doesn’t get enough iodine, thyroid nodules may develop. This can also
lead to decreased functioning of the thyroid gland.
Most nodules are benign. However, nodules can be cancerous.
If a nodule grows rapidly or persists for a long time, you should seek a medical
When to see your doctor
You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms such
- difficulty swallowing
- difficulty breathing
- vision problems
- a pounding heart
- an intolerance to heat
- muscle weakness
- neck pain
- sudden, unexplained weight
- difficulty sleeping
Even if you don’t think your nodule is harmful, it’s best to contact your
doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
What to expect during your appointment
Before treatment, your doctor will perform several tests to determine what
caused your nodule to appear. These tests may include taking a blood sample or a
biopsy of the nodule. For nodules that form internally, your doctor may perform
an ultrasound, or an imaging test.
How are nodules treated?
If the nodule is noncancerous, your doctor may choose to monitor the nodule
without providing treatment. Nodules frequently change and may go away on their
own. If the overproduction of a hormone, such as the thyroid hormone, is
causing a nodule to form, your doctor may give you prescription medications to
suppress the hormone, causing the nodule to shrink.
In some cases, surgery is necessary to remove nodules. If a nodule is
cancerous, your doctor may suggest surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or
all three treatment options to treat the nodule.
What is the outlook for people with nodules?
The outlook for a person with nodules depends on their cause. Many nodules
will go away with treatment. In cases of cancer, early diagnosis is key to
effective treatment. If you do find a nodule, see your doctor. Keep track of
any other symptoms you’ve experienced, changes in size to the nodule, or any pain
associated with the nodule. Share this information with your doctor.