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Thyroid Problems (cont.)

Thyroid Nodules and Goiter Signs and Symptoms

  • The only sign of goiter or nodule is an enlargement in the lower part of the front part of the neck. This enlargement is often not painful or bothersome.
  • When the nodule or goiter becomes large, there can be pressure on the surrounding normal structures in the neck including the esophagus (swallowing tube), trachea (breathing tube) and the blood vessels that bring blood to and from the head. A common symptom is feeling a constant pressure in the front of the neck that is worse when the head is tilted down. This pressure on the breathing tube (trachea) may cause a small, dry cough that can be constant and worsens when lying down. The pressure on the swallowing tube (esophagus) may be noticed as difficulty in swallowing large pills or dry food such as bread and rice with the food "getting stuck" in the lower part of the front of the neck. Rarely, this pressure can damage the nerve that controls the voice box, causing hoarseness of the voice.

When to Seek Medical Care for Thyroid Problems

The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism typically develop slowly over a period of weeks to months. If an individual has prolonged symptoms or signs of either condition, call a doctor to be evaluated.

Untreated hypothyroidism may have severe effects on the brain as well as cause intestinal obstruction and inability of the heart to beat effectively. An infection, exposure to cold, trauma, and certain medications may often cause a worsening of hypothyroidism.

Seek immediate attention at a hospital's emergency department if you have these signs and symptoms associated with thyroid problems.

Severe hyperthyroidism, called thyrotoxic crisis (thyroid storm), may be life-threatening because of its effects on the heart and brain. It often occurs in people who are untreated or are receiving inadequate treatment for thyroid problems. A severe infection can also cause a thyrotoxic crisis.

Seek immediate attention at a hospital's emergency department if you have these signs and symptoms associated with thyroid problems.

  • Chest pain
  • Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme agitation or irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation (person has no knowledge of the date or location)
  • Fever
  • Coma

Severe goiter or nodule problem: Seek immediate attention at a hospital's emergency department if you have these signs and symptoms associated with thyroid problems.

  • Shortness of breath especially with stridor (a whistling sound in your neck when you breathe)
  • Extreme pain in your thyroid gland that prevents you from swallowing
  • Sudden enlargement of your thyroid gland, especially if associated with problems breathing or swallowing
  • Pain and high fever with the thyroid enlargement
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/19/2016
Medical Author:

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