Some Facts About Thyroid Calcification
Our thyroid gland is prone to a number of conditions and disorders, one of them being thyroid calcification. Thyroid abnormalities occur most often, but by no means only, in older people. The three most commonly encountered disorders are hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and the presence of thyroid nodules. It is this latter disorder where thyroid calcification often plays a significant role.
The Parathyroid Gland And Calcium Levels - Behind the thyroid gland are what are called parathyroid glands. These are endocrine glands, usually four in number whose function is to regulate the levels of calcium in the bloodstream. Our muscles and nervous systems require that the calcium levels be maintained within a relatively narrow range, in order to function properly under certain conditions, the parathyroid glands may become hyperactive, just as the thyroid gland itself may become hyperactive. When the parathyroid glands become hyperactive, the calcium levels in the blood will rise significantly and calcification of soft tissue may result. Those familiar with osteoporosis recognize the condition as that of having excessive calcium deposits in bone, or ossification. When soft tissue is affected, the process is called calcification.
As mentioned at the beginning, one of the common problems with the thyroid gland may be the formation of solid or fluid filled lumps in the thyroid itself. These lumps are known as nodules, a small percentage of which may be cancerous though the great majority of them are not. The combination of the presence of thyroid nodules, and a hyperactive parathyroid gland, can sometimes result in one or more of these nodules becoming calcified. Other tissue within the thyroid may become calcified as well, but it is the nodules that represent the greatest concern.
Calcified nodules, detected by ultrasound or other imaging techniques were in the past regarded as being of little consequence, a disorder of sorts to be sure but nothing more. Further testing however has shown that while only a small fraction of nodules which may be present in the thyroid gland are ever cancerous, a fairly high percentage of nodules which are calcified have been determined to be malignant. Thyroid calcification then, is much more of a serious problem than was originally believed.
Diagnosis Can Be Tricky - The problem facing medical practitioners is that it can be quite difficult to determine though imaging techniques whether or not a given nodule represents a danger to the patient. There are so many different types of thyroid problems, exhibiting such a wide range of symptoms that making an accurate diagnosis can sometimes be quite difficult. Diagnosis can be particularly difficult in older women. To begin with, women are more frequently affected with thyroid problems than are men. In older women, especially those suffering from osteoporosis, a through examination of the thyroid gland can become difficult as ossification in the bones may have caused changes in the woman's anatomy, often masking problems, such as calcification, which may be present in the thyroid.
A Dangerous Though Uncommon Condition - Although the high rate of malignancy associated with a calcified thyroid nodule is a rather scary statistic, the fact remains that such a condition is quite uncommon. Most people have thyroid nodules at some stage, and for the most part, their lives remain unaffected, as the nodules are benign. Whether calcification of a nodule causes the nodule to become malignant, or a malignant nodule is more apt to become calcified, is not completely clear. The real problem however lies in the difficulties there can be in detecting the condition. Fortunately, when a calcified thyroid nodule is present, it can often be felt by the patient, causing significant discomfort at times, as the enlarged thyroid exerts pressure against surrounding tissue. The condition can even cause lumps on the chest and difficulty in breathing.