Reader’s Digest Article
If You Have Bumps on Your Neck, Here’s What It Could Mean
Lumps and bumps can appear anywhere on your body, including your neck.
A thyroid nodule
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck that produces the hormones that keep your metabolism humming. Thyroid nodules are abnormal clusters of thyroid cells that form a lump within the thyroid gland. Thyroid nodules rarely cause any symptoms, but you may notice a lump on your neck while looking in a mirror or buttoning your collar, explains Minisha Sood, MD, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. As many as 50 percent of us will have at least one thyroid nodule by the age of 60, according to the American Thyroid Association.
What to do: Don’t panic, Dr. Sood says. “This is very likely a benign condition, but seek an evaluation from your internist or endocrinologist to be sure.”
If you see a swelling in the front of your neck, it could be an enlarged thyroid gland, also known as a goiter, says Dr. Sood. “If there is a concern, tip your chin up, look in mirror sideways, take a sip of water, and see if there is swelling that moves up and down,” she suggests. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition marked by the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) and may cause an enlarged thyroid. An underactive thyroid may also lead to an enlarged thyroid gland. Both conditions come with symptoms: People with Graves’ disease may experience a racing heartbeat, hand tremors, trouble sleeping, weight loss, and muscle weakness; hypothyroidism is characterized by dry skin, thinning hair, and constipation, among other symptoms. Look for these
What to do: Your doctor will order imaging and blood tests to figure out what is causing the enlarged thyroid. “These tests look at the anatomy and function of the thyroid gland,” says Dr. Sood. Most of the time, thyroid disease is benign and treatable, she says. “The odds are in your favor that it’s benign, but it should be evaluated.” Factors that increase suspicion of thyroid cancer include family history and a history of radiation treatment to the head or neck, Dr. Sood says.