Thyroid Pain


Clinically, various thyroid disorders are associated with pain in the thyroid gland at the front of the neck (Adam’s apple). The pain can get aggravated on swallowing and can be accompanied by tenderness on palpating the thyroid gland. A painful thyroid swelling can pose various respiratory complications and it is a common symptoms presented by many thyroid conditions such as a hyperactive thyroid gland and thyroid cancer. It is therefore advised to seek assistance from a healthcare provider to determine the cause of thyroid pain and most importantly, to rule out the malignancy. If the thyroid pain leads to discomfort on long term could results in serious health complications if left untreated. Here is a detailed narration about the causes of thyroid pain, thyroid conditions that are associated with pain, and their management.


Causes of Thyroid Pain

Although, thyroid pain can be caused by other possible causes; however, the medical disorders that are associated with significant thyroid pain are listed as follows:

  • Subacute granulomatous thyroiditis (SAT), also referred to as painful sub-acute thyroiditisorde Quervain’s thyroiditis, is the most common thyroid disorder that is associated with pain and tenderness in front of the neck.
  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Thyroid cyst
  • Viral thyroiditis, a type of Thyroiditis that occurs due to the viral infection cause by mumps virus, Coxsackie virus, or adenovirus, to include a few.
  • Thyroid carcinoma can cause severe pain in the thyroid gland
  • A bleeding tumor or cyst can cause significant thyroid pain
  • Trauma to the neck including soft tissue bruising can also result in severe neck pain
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  • Inflammation of the thyroglossal fistula orthyroglossal cyst is accompanied with pain in the thyroid gland
  • Thyroid cyst associated with severe hemorrhage into the thyroid gland can cause severe pain
  • Hashimoto’s disease, an inflammatory thyroiditis can also present with pain in the thyroid gland
  • Advanced carcinoma of the thyroid often spreads to distant body sites, resulting in life-threatening complications, accompanied with an intolerable pain that is radiating in nature.
  • A goiter, associated with the benign enlargement of the thyroid gland or benign thyroid nodule can cause pain in the thyroid gland, which can be successfully treated.

Various thyroid disorders associated with pain

Sometimes, thyroid pain doesn’t always imply the severity of an underlying thyroid disorder and it may not be always accompanied by thyroid swelling. The main cause of pain remains unknown in few cases as the thyroid gland related pain is specific to each patient and may not experienced by all patients.Some of the common thyroid conditions that lead to pain in the thyroid gland include:

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  • Goiter, which is commonly characterized with swelling and pain, is the most commonly presented condition.
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Thyroid nodules present with both pain and swelling of the thyroid gland
  • Thyroid cancer

Types of thyroid pain

  • Thyroid pain may be perceived as an ache, with an evident tenderness to touch and swelling of the thyroid gland.
  • It can physically present as a swelling of unsightly appearance, associated with hoarseness of the throat or sore throat.
  • The pain aggravates on touching or swallowing.

Sign of thyroid pain

Thyroid pain can be the first and foremost indication of thyroid cancer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, it has been reported that majority of thyroid nodules presenting with severe pain tend to be malignant. Hence, it is advised to be cautious when one experiences swelling or pain of the thyroid gland.

  • It is highly recommended to be careful even in cases of evident hypoactive or hyperactive thyroid, as a progressive swelling accompanied with thyroid pain can be a first signs of ongoing condition.
  • It is always advised to seek assistance for thyroid pain from a healthcare provider as cases treated with thyroid medication require frequent follow-up to rule out a more severe complication
  • Moreover, early diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer is utmost necessary to achieve a favorable treatment outcome.

Treatment for painful thyroid gland

  • The treatment protocol for a thyroid gland presenting with pain and swelling mainly depends on an underlying cause.
  • Treating a thyroid condition gradually relieves from thyroid pain for long term; however, the short term treatment for intolerable pain includes over-the-counter prescription painkillers.
  • Thyroid conditions, including painful thyroiditis associated with both pain and inflammation can be relieved with prescription pain relieving drugs with anti-inflammatory properties, which include medicines such as ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil),aspirin, or naproxen (Aleve).
  • Acute thyroiditis is occasionally treated with the combination of steroids and thyroid hormone replacement drugs to minimize the inflammation and stabilize hormone production.

Treatment for pain associated with thyroid cancer depends on the treatment modality and preferred anti-analgesic medications for the condition include opioid analgesics, acetaminophen, and local anesthetics.

Treatment of thyroid cancer with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgical excision of the thyroid, gradually alleviates from pain on a long term.

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