Nodules, small lumps of tissue, can form in parts of the body including the thyroid, breasts, skin, vocal cords, joints and lungs. They typically measure from 1cm to 2cm in diameter, though some, such as pulmonary nodules, can be larger. Although some cause no symptoms at all, others nodules might cause discomfort or interfere with bodily functions. Nodules can be benign or cancerous.
Often felt or seen as a lump on the throat, thyroid nodules are normally benign and are far more common in middle-aged and elderly adults than in young adults. In most cases, thyroid nodules cause no pain or other problems, though a person with thyroid nodules should have a physician inspect them to ensure they are not cancerous and that the thyroid is functioning normally, says endocrineweb.com.
It is normal for nodules to develop in women's breasts. Breast nodules have a variety of causes, including cysts, inflammation, calcium deposits, abscesses and duct obstruction. Though usually a sign of benign breast disease, they also can be a sign of cancer. Medical tests, such as a fine needle aspiration or a biopsy, can determine if a breast nodule is benign or malignant, according to Life Extension.
A hormonal imbalance can cause a person to develop acne nodules. Unlike milder forms of acne, in which pimples develop on the skin's surface, acne nodules develop below the skin's surface. These firm and often painful lumps require help from a dermatologist, who can treat them with cortisone injections, isotretinoin, surgical draining or alpha hydroxy acid peeling, says acnetalks.com.
Other Skin Nodules
Other kinds of nodules can form on or under the skin. Many skin nodules pose no cause for concern, though some --- such as moles and birthmarks --- can be disfiguring and others such as corns can cause discomfort. However, some skin nodules require medical attention. Boils, for instance, can lead to blood poisoning, and some lumps --- especially dark moles that appear suddenly --- are signs of cancer, according to Formula Medical Group.
Vocal Cord Nodules
By preventing the vocal cords from pressing together, nodules on one or both of the cords cause a person's voice to sound hoarse or breathy. Various factors can cause vocal cord nodules, including excessive screaming or loud talking, poor breath support, allergies, chronic upper respiratory infections and hormonal imbalances. Though they can be surgically removed, voice therapy is typically necessary to prevent the nodules from returning, says the Pediatric Otolaryngology website.
Some rheumatoid arthritis sufferers develop nodules on their elbows, back, fingers, feet or other areas. These nodules usually do not require treatment. If a rheumatoid nodule does cause discomfort or interferes with a joint's range of motion, a physician can treat it with medication or surgically remove it, says Everyday Health.
Pulmonary nodules --- growths on the lungs no more than 3cm in diameter --- are often the result of tuberculosis or a fungal infection. Benign nodules typically show little if any growth and do not need to be treated. Cancerous nodules, however, grow rapidly and require surgical removal or other medical treatment, says endocrineweb.com.
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