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Impact of Thyroid Nodules on Voice and Swallowing: Causes and Remedies

by | May 21, 2024

Discover how thyroid nodules can affect your voice and swallowing, their underlying causes, and effective remedies. Learn about symptoms, diagnostic methods, and treatment options to manage and alleviate these conditions in Singapore.

asian nurse feeding senior woman

Introduction to the Impact of Thyroid Nodules on Voice and Swallowing

If you have unexplained voice or swallowing issues, a thyroid nodule could be to blame. In Singapore, 8% of women and 2% of men have thyroid nodules large enough to detect in an examination. While these lumps are typically non-cancerous, they can cause discomfort and health problems that impact your quality of life. Due to their location, thyroid nodules can change your voice and make swallowing difficult. Luckily, there are ways to relieve symptoms caused by thyroid nodules.

 

Understanding Thyroid Nodules

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your neck that produces hormones that impact metabolism, mood, breathing, and heart rate. It sits under the larynx and its two lobes (wings) wrap around either side of the esophagus.

A thyroid nodule is an abnormal growth of cells that create a lump in the thyroid gland. Due to the location of the thyroid gland, these lumps can create pressure that affects swallowing and the sound of your voice.

 

How Thyroid Nodules Affect the Voice

The thyroid’s placement just under the larynx typically doesn’t affect your vocal cords. However, when nodules grow on the thyroid, they can press against your vocal cords. A hoarse or low-sounding voice is the most common way thyroid nodules affect your voice. However, other issues may be observed as well, including trembling voice, reduced intensity, and audible breathing.

 

How Thyroid Nodules Affect Swallowing

The center of the thyroid gland sits right on top of the windpipe with the lobes wrapping around each side. The esophagus sits directly behind the windpipe. A nodule that grows on the back of the thyroid can press against your esophagus and cause difficulty swallowing. Symptoms may include feeling like something is stuck in your throat or difficulty swallowing firm foods.

 

Diagnosis of Voice and Swallowing Issues

If you have voice changes or swallowing issues, it’s important to have a medical examination to see if thyroid nodules are present. There are several ways your doctor or endocrinologist might perform testing.

  • Physical examination: Your doctor will feel along your neck for lumps or thyroid enlargement, and likely ask you to swallow at certain points during the examination. You may also have other tests that measure specific hormones produced by your thyroid.
  • Imaging tests: An ultrasound is the most common imaging test for thyroid nodules, but your doctor may prescribe a CT scan or an MRI for clearer evaluation.
  • Laryngoscopy: To get clear visuals of how thyroid nodules are affecting the vocal cords, a doctor may guide a thin flexible scope down the throat to the larynx.
  • Esophagoscopy: In some cases, your doctor might want to see inside your esophagus to examine your difficulty swallowing. A scope inserted through the mouth allows an investigation of the esophagus to see how much it’s compressed.

 

Thyroid Nodules Treatment Options

In many cases, thyroid nodules are harmless. However, when they impact your quality of life, there are many treatment options. The best treatment for you will depend on the size of your thyroid nodule condition, symptoms, treatment, cause and your doctor’s recommendation.

 

Conservative Treatments

  • Observation: Benign nodules without serious symptoms are typically watched closely for growth or other changes. You’ll learn how to watch for changes and have frequent appointments to be examined for changes.
  • Medications for Thyroid Hormone Management: Some hormone nodules produce extra thyroid hormone. These nodules may be treated with medications that help regulate hormones.

 

Minimally Invasive Procedures

A minimally invasive procedure called Radiofrequency Ablation can shrink nodules without surgery over time without surgery. This approach is ideal for nodules that impact the patient’s lifestyle but aren’t cancerous.

A small needle electrode is inserted into the thyroid nodule through ultrasound guidance. Heat energy is then applied through the needle to destroy the cells of the nodule from within, gradually shrinking the nodule.

 

Surgical Treatments

Partial or total removal of the thyroid gland (Thyroidectomy) is usually only recommended when malignancy is suspected or other methods are unproductive. Surgical intervention can result in total removal of a malignant tumor.

 

Voice and Swallowing Rehabilitation

In some cases, different types of physical therapy can help patients improve vocal and swallowing symptoms caused by thyroid nodules. Speech therapy can be used to strengthen the vocal cords so they better withstand the pressure from the nodules. Voice therapy may include breathing exercises, tension release exercises, and voice-building exercises.

 

Lifestyle Modifications and Self-Care Tips

Many people live with symptoms related to benign thyroid nodules. There are several actions you can take to alleviate issues related to your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Turning your head to one side when you swallow firm foods
  • Voice exercises to strengthen vocal cords
  • Losing weight to reduce pressure
  • Stop smoking to avoid irritation

 

Seeking Professional Help for Your Thyroid Issues in Singapore

Don’t wait for your thyroid concerns to get worse. Early diagnosis is central to successful treatment. At Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic, Dr. Manish Taneja, our thyroid nodule specialist in Singapore, has the experience and expertise in diagnosing and treating thyroid nodules. We invite you to  contact us to get started.

Thyroid Nodule Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) Treatment

Radiofrequency ablation aims to give patients a non-surgical option for treating thyroid nodules. This procedure is a minimally invasive option that a surgeon can perform, should the preliminary tests determine that you would benefit from it.

The Advantages of RFA of Thyroid Nodules
The major advantages of the technique are as below.

  1. It is done as day surgery procedure under light sedation.
  2. It takes about 45 minutes to one hour to complete the entire procedure.
  3. Patients are discharged the same day.
  4. Normal thyroid tissue adjacent to the nodule is preserved.
  5. It does not affect thyroid function.
  6. Multiple nodules can be treated at same time.
  7. The treated nodules do not regrow again.
  8. No surgical scar with needle mark on the skin.
  9. Quick recovery and back to full activity and normal lifestyle.
  10. The technique is suitable to treat even large thyroid nodules.

Find out how thyroid nodule Radiofrequency Ablation can help you in a minimally invasive way on our blog post, “Thyroid Nodule Radiofrequency Ablation Treatment: Diagnosis,  Management, and Recovery.”

Find the Right Doctor

From family and internal medicine to specialist, Dr. Manish Taneja is the best in the field. As a vascular and interventional radiology specialist, Dr Manish Taneja looks after peripheral vascular disease, aneurysms, dialysis interventions, venous diseases like deep vein thrombosis, and varicose veins/spider veins/reticular veins. He is also competent in performing newer endovascular procedures such as uterine artery embolization, prostate artery embolization, genicular artery embolization, and erectile dysfunction interventions. Dr. Manish Taneja also has extensive experience in performing all vascular interventions, non-vascular interventions and interventional oncology procedures.

Read More About Vascular Treatments on Our Blog

To dive deeper into the types of vascular treatments such as thyroid nodule radiofrequency ablation, head over to our clinic’s blog.  Read our recommended vascular treatments related blog posts to stay informed.

Thyroid Nodule Resources

How to Keep Thyroid Healthy for Optimal Well-Being

As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid hormones must be perfectly balanced at all times for the body to function normally.

Woman holding and using megaphone

Caring For Your Thyroid Health

Have you ever experienced difficulty swallowing or breathing? You may have risk factors including a family history of thyroid nodules or iodine deficiency. Thyroid nodules are abnormal lumps (growths) within the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland located below your voice box. Even if most thyroid nodules are benign, 10-15% of nodules are cancerous. Sometimes overgrowth of normal thyroid tissue can lead to hyperthyroidism. In other cases, multiple nodules can form in the thyroid called multinodular goiter. Fluid filled thyroid cysts can be one type of thyroid nodule within the thyroid. More complex nodules may lead to thyroid cancers. Depending on the root cause and type of nodule you have, patients can monitor with regular ultrasound or even have a thyroid fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAC) if required. Surgery to remove partial or whole thyroid gland can be done but thanks to minimally invasive treatments such as Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), this procedure can treat noncancerous and cancerous thyroid lumps.

Types of Thyroid Nodules and Cancer

Watch our video guide and find out more on our blog post, “Types of Thyroid Nodules and Cancer” with the types, causes, evaluation, biopsy, treatment options, and when to see a thyroid specialist. Find answers to questions on whether thyroid nodules are cancerous or not.

Arrange Your Appointment

Consult Vascular Specialist, Dr. Manish Taneja

Other Health Conditions

The Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic is your “go-to” facility for various conditions and pain management. To arrange an appointment with Dr. Manish Taneja, our thyroid nodule specialist, contact us. You can also call us at (+65) 6904 8084 for a consultation.