01/08/2011 - Questions and Answers

Thyroid Cyst: Should I Be Worried About Thyroid Cyst?

By: Mark Castleden

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Thyroid Cyst

A thyroid cyst represent enlarged fluid-filled sac located in the thyroid gland that can be small (less than 1 cm) or large. Thyroid Cyst may develop slowly or appear suddenly. Some cysts may be entirely made up of fluid, while other thyroid cysts contain some solid components within the fluid.

In this article:

What does a thyroid cyst mean?
Tests for thyroid cyst
Can the thyroid have cysts

Question

I was told about two years ago that I have several cysts on my thyroid. I have gained a lot of weight, I'm always tired and I have very dry skin with constant itching. The doctors never gave me any medicine, and they didn't do a biopsy. Do you think this could be a cancerous condition?

Answer

What does a thyroid cyst mean?
The thyroid gland is important in controlling many different basic functions of the body. The gland makes thyroid hormone, which is essential in controlling these functions. Hyperthyroidism is the condition where there is too much thyroid hormone circulating, and often presents with the symptoms of weight loss, tremors, anxiety, osteoporosis, and an irregular heart beat (atrial fibrillation). On the other hand, hypothyroidism is the condition where there is not enough thyroid hormone in the body; this condition is marked by weight gain, fatigue or lethargy, feeling dull or slow-witted, and increased cholesterol levels.

Tests for thyroid cyst
The two best tests to start evaluating a person for thyroid problems are the TSH level and the free T4 level. The TSH level tells us how much of a controlling substance (TSH) the brain is putting out to control the activity of the thyroid. The free T4 level tells us how much active thyroid hormone is circulating and present in your bloodstream.

Given the symptoms you are describing, with weight gain and tiredness, dry skin and itching, we would suspect that you are in fact hypothyroid. You should have the thyroid function blood tests described above done. That would be a good place to start to see if your thyroid is not producing enough hormone.

Can the thyroid have cysts
With regards to the cysts, the thyroid can have cysts, which are like little water balloons, and these are not terribly important. The thyroid cysts do not interfere with the hormone production and really have no significance. The best test to look at these is an ultrasound exam of the thyroid - this is also useful in looking for thyroid masses, which could be more significant, or the presence of a goiter. A goiter is a large growth of the thyroid due to lack of correct function - goiters are usually seen in people with hypothyroidism. At this point, a biopsy is not needed unless the ultrasound shows a specific thyroid mass, not just the cysts. The best place to start is with the thyroid function tests and the ultrasound.

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Reviewed on: 01/08/2011

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Anonymous wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

I have been suffering from an earache for months. The doctor has given me 3 different antibiotics (arithomicin, bactin, and cipro) with no change in my condition. Now my neck and head are in terrible pain. He sent me to an endocrinologist because I am also a hysterectomy patient (I have Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) and I needed to check my hormone levels. I was shocked to hear that I had a cyst on my thyroid and I had high testosterone levels. Should I be concerned? What should I do to proceed from here because I am so tired of aching?

June Chen, MD wrote 2 years 19 weeks ago

It certainly sounds like you have many things going on, and only your personal physician can advise you as to whether they are all related. Your personal physician can also examine you and help you to coordinate your health care needs, especially if you need to seek specialist care.

It is possible that your high testosterone levels are related to your polycystic ovary syndrome. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have low levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SBHG), a protein that binds to testosterone as it circulates through the bloodstream. Testosterone that is bound to SBHG is not biologically active. However, if you have low SBHG, more testosterone can enter your cells.

As you know, there are many possible causes of thyroid cysts and perhaps your endocrinologist can advise you on whether or not additional studies need to be done in order to characterize your cyst. And, perhaps, an otolaryngologist, or ear/nose/throat specialist can assist you with your persistent earache.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

Thank you for your reply. I have seen my doc who sent me to an endocronologist. He seems confused until further testing because I do not have any overies to produce testosterone.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

I think should be worried.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

If you want to know the causes of a cyst, on thyroid or not, it can be caused by infections, tumors, chronic inflammatory conditions amongst other things. I never had thyroid cysts but I pretty sure the causes are the same

June Chen, MD wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Most thyroid nodules do not cause any symptoms, though some patients with rapidly enlarging thyroid nodules (> 3-4 cm) may complain of pain in the neck, jaw, or ear. However, thyroid nodules can become large enough for you to feel them or see swelling at the base of the neck without causing pain. If a thyroid nodule is large enough, it may cause difficulty swallowing or shortness of breath if the nodule is pressing on the windpipe. Very rarely, a thyroid nodule may cause hoarsesness if it touches on a nerve to the vocal cords.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

How large does a thyroid cyst become before it causes pain in the neck?