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.
Most thyroid nodules are benign, according to both the Research Institute of Radiological Science and Mayo Clinic. Some are even silent. However, they still indicate possible thyroid disease and need to be investigated by a medical professional. Even a cancerous thyroid has a good prognosis if it's detected early.
If thyroid nodules cause symptoms, they might present as lumps that are felt or seen in the neck. Some are large enough to interfere with swallowing or breathing, states Mayo Clinic. Some stimulate the thyroid to produce excess thyroid hormones, which leads to hyperthyroidism symptoms.
These symptoms include weight loss, even though the patient isn't trying to lose weight, or an increased appetite, tachycardia, trembling, weakness, nervousness and an inability to tolerate heat, claims Mayo Clinic. Complications of hyperthyroidism can be osteoporosis, or weakened bones, and a thyrotoxic crisis. This is a potentially fatal development that requires immediate medical attention.
A heterogeneous thyroid can be caused by an iodine deficiency or goiter, cysts, inflammation, overgrowth of thyroid tissue and cancer, also according to Mayo Clinic.