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What is a heterogeneous thyroid?

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Quick Answer

A heterogeneous thyroid is a thyroid gland that is not uniform in structure and may indicate a thyroid disorder, explains Health and Nutrition Tips. InnerBody.com notes that the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck. The thyroid gland encircles the larynx and contributes to the Adam's apple prominence. It produces hormones that regulate the conversion rate of nutrients to energy in the body.

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Abnormal tissues such as cystic nodules, adenomas and cancerous tumors appear as heterogeneous structures in thyroid ultrasound imagery. As explained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, ultrasound technology is widely used in recognizing heterogeneous structural appearances and evaluating thyroid disorders. Heterogeneous ultrasound patterns provide physical imaging that may correlate to underactive or overactive thyroid conditions, helping to guide diagnosis and intervention. Thyroid ultrasound is used in conjunction with other diagnostic tools such as blood tests, thyroid scans and biopsies to reach a conclusive diagnosis for thyroid abnormalities.

Hypothyroidism refers to a low production of thyroid hormone and is often a result of thyroid damage caused by an autoimmune disease, explains WebMD. Hyperthyroidism refers to an overactive thyroid that produces high hormone levels, often caused by Graves disease or an overactive thyroid nodule. Overactive thyroid nodules often appear as enlarged, heterogeneous masses on ultrasound images.

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  • Q:

    What causes thyroid nodules?

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    Many conditions can cause the development of nodules in the thyroid gland, including iodine deficiency, overgrowth of thyroid tissue, cysts, inflammation of the thyroid and the development of a goiter, according to Mayo Clinic. Thyroid cancer can also cause thyroid nodules to develop.

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  • Q:

    What does it mean when your thyroid gland is heterogeneous?

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    A heterogeneous thyroid gland means that the gland is abnormal, according to the Research Institute of Radiological Science. A normal, or homogeneous, thyroid has uniform tissue throughout. An abnormal thyroid gland often presents with nodules, which may or may not be cancerous.

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  • Q:

    What does an elevated thyroid mean?

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    Having an elevated thyroid level is a condition known as hyperthyroidism, meaning the thyroid gland is producing too much of the thyroid hormone thyroxine, according to WebMD. Hyperthyroidism has various causes, such as Graves' disease, toxic multinodular goiter, excessive intake of thyroid hormones and the abnormal secretion of thyroid-stimulating hormone.

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  • Q:

    How is a thyroid biopsy done?

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    A thyroid biopsy is done by inserting a thin needle, using a needle with a special tip or making an incision to obtain a small tissue sample from the thyroid gland, explains WebMD. Doctors examine the sample under a microscope to determine the presence of thyroid problems.

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