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What Is Thyroid Calcification?

Medical tests can determine the type of nodule involved in thyroid calcification.
A calcified thyroid is usually benign.
Thyroid calcification may cause inintended weight loss.
Iodine deficiency can increase an individual's risk for developing thyroid calcification.
Thyroid calcification is a solid or semi-solid lump within the thyroid gland.
Most thyroid nodules are discovered during routine examinations.
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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2014
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Thyroid calcification is the formation of a solid or semi-solid lump within the thyroid gland. In most cases, a calcified thyroid is a benign, meaning noncancerous, condition that may not present any symptoms. Treatment for thyroid calcification is dependent on the type of nodule and the overall health of the individual.

The thyroid itself is comprised of two lobes within the neck that absorb iodine from the foods an individual consumes. The thyroid uses the collected iodine to produce two hormones, known as triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Hormones T3 and T4 are utilized to regulate several body processes, such as heart rate, body temperature, and protein production. Calcitonin, a hormone produced within the thyroid gland, works in combination with T3 and T4 to regulate calcium levels in the blood. A hormonal disruption within the gland results in the impaired circulation and accumulation of calcium salts within the thyroid, contributing to the formation of nodules, or fluid-filled sacs.

Individuals who consume a diet lacking in iodine may be at an increased risk for developing thyroid calcification. A genetic deficiency involving one's thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) receptors may increase his or her risk for developing thyroid nodule calcification. Additionally, certain autoimmune disorders, such as Hashimoto’s disease, may increase an individual’s chances of being diagnosed with a calcified thyroid.

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Benign nodules include colloids, follicular adenomas, and some cysts that may grow to 1 inch (about 25 mm) in diameter. Noncancerous thyroid nodules are generally fluid-filled and comprised of thyroid tissue. Though they may multiply in number, benign calcifications usually remain confined to the thyroid gland. Thyroid calcifications comprised of both fluid and semi-solid material may be cancerous, or malignant, and should be evaluated. Nodules that are solid in composition, large in diameter, and cause discomfort in the neck area may also be malignant.

In some instances, when several nodules form within the thyroid, they may lead to the development of a multinodular goiter. Commonly known simply as a goiter, this condition can adversely affect one’s ability to breathe and swallow. Hormone production and distribution may become impaired in the presence of multiple nodules, leading to the development of conditions such as Plummer’s disease, toxic adenomas, and toxic multinodular goiters.

Individuals with thyroid calcification may be asymptomatic, meaning they exhibit no symptoms at all. Those who develop nodules that progress rapidly may notice that the base of their neck is swollen or they may be able to actually feel the nodule through the skin. Hormonal changes originating with thyroid calcification may cause the individual to experience symptoms that may include unintended or abrupt weight loss, heart arrhythmias, or feelings of anxiety and nervousness.

Most thyroid nodules are discovered during routine examinations or during testing procedures, such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), for an unrelated condition. Upon discovery, the nodule should be examined further to determine its composition and evaluate whether it is indicative of thyroid dysfunction. Tests utilized to evaluate a thyroid nodule calcification include thyroid function tests and a fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy.

Thyroid function tests measure levels of T3 and T4 in an individual’s blood and determine whether too much or too little is being produced. Individuals who produce too little may be diagnosed with hypothyroidism and those producing too much may be determined to have hyperthyroidism. An image guided fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy is required to determine whether the nodule is malignant or benign. The biopsy involves the use of a small needle to collect a small sample of cells from within the nodule, which is sent to a laboratory for analysis. During a biopsy procedure, the needle is guided and monitored by ultrasound to ensure its correct placement and collection of sample cells.

Treatment for thyroid calcification is dependent on the type of nodule that develops and the overall health of the individual. Most calcified thyroids require regular monitoring and no immediate treatment. Individuals with a benign nodule may undergo thyroid hormone suppression therapy to shrink the nodule and prevent further growth and risk of complication. In some instances, radioactive iodine may be utilized to alleviate symptoms associated with multinodular goiters and certain adenomas. Surgery may be recommended to remove suspicious, benign, and malignant nodules, especially those that impair one’s ability to swallow or breathe properly.

Complications associated with thyroid nodules can be serious and include the development of heart problems, including congestive heart failure and brittle bones, a condition known as osteoporosis. Individuals with a calcified thyroid may also develop a life-threatening condition known as thyrotoxic crisis that is characterized by a severe worsening of symptoms that require prompt medical attention. Individuals of advanced age and those with a pre-existing thyroid condition may be at an increased risk for developing a calcified thyroid.

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Discuss this Article

anon963266
Post 10

I'm sick of doctors being afraid to prescribe T3 especially if the labs and physical symptoms don't coincide!

anon347731
Post 9

My brother just got diagnosed with thyroid calcification. He noticed a small lump on his neck in front. They did an ultrasound and said they will do a biopsy next month. Well, it has grown just in the last two weeks. Really, I thought, "You're going to wait a month to see if it's cancerous?" He's 65. I'll let you know after I try to get him in sooner for the biopsy.

anon336484
Post 8

I have been having thyroid problems since 2004. I was diagnosed with a single hot toxic nodule. It has grown rather large, and since last year, I have another one small on the other side. The larger one has calcification. Tomorrow I am starting methimazole 10 mg. Really scared. I am 56.

anon333680
Post 6

I was not able to feel the nodule until after brought to my attention. I had noticed a slight difference in the neck/midline, closer to my clavicle. It is a calcified nodule. I had FNA years ago and continue to watch it. I was diagnosed with hashimoto's thyroidiitis since I have many nodules. Good luck.

suzannels
Post 5

I have Grave's disease hyperthyroid autoimmune disorder. I have had an ultrasound and uptake test with scan. It was found that I have multiple nodules with some calcification. three of the nodules were biopsied yesterday and I'm just waiting for results.

As an answer to the question from lolacoop, one of the nodules yes, I can see and feel. Some I cannot. It all depends on the size and placement of the nodules. They can be deeper in the thyroid and small where they can not be seen or felt. Others can be up closer to the surface and can be felt and seen.

anon258910
Post 4

I have been having symptoms for many months and a weight loss of more than 40 pounds. During a routine exam at my RA MD, I mentioned the lumps in my neck and other symptoms I had been having (which I thought could be connected to my Humira injections). He sent me to the ENT, who did further exams and then ordered an ultrasound guided biopsy of the thyroid.

I have calcification on both the right and left side of my thyroid and they cannot rule out a follicular neoplasm.

Of course, I did massive research and only got more freaked out. Besides the severe RA and recent diagnosis of Sjogren's, I am seeing an endocrinologist next week to evaluate the biopsy and test results. Not sure what to expect but hoping strongly there will be some sort of game plan about what to next, whether it is medication or surgery. I just want to move forward and try to retain some quality of life.

anon174365
Post 3

I'm 53 and have a enlarged thyroid with calcification all over my my thyroid gland. I was told by my Endocrinologist at UCLA to not remove the gland. He said that this is part of Hashimoto's disease. Anybody else having the same problems.

lena007
Post 2

My best friend has been having a lot of problems with her thyroid lately and the doctors are starting to think that she might have a thyroid calcification. She's been having the treatments on her thyroid for several years, but they seem to have gotten less effective lately. Do you think that she might have a calcification, or know of something else that could cause this?

lolacoop
Post 1

Wow, that sounds kind of creepy -- I can't imagine suddenly feeling a big lump in my neck. Of course, I guess if I was feeling all the other symptoms that might be the least of my worries. Has anybody reading this actually had thyroid calcification, were you able to actually feel the lump?

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