What Can Cause Changes in the Thyroid?

Changes in the thyroid that may need to be examined with ultrasound include:

  • Nodules
  • Goiter
  • Enlargement
  • Swelling or inflammation
  • Neck redness
A thyroid goiter is when the thyroid enlarges all over. A goiter may occur because of iodine deficiency related to inadequate or poor nutrition. This condition is uncommon in developed countries but still occurs in the non-coastal United States because the soil lacks iodine, resulting in the food grown there to lack iodine. Iodine is critical for the thyroid gland to function properly. When the gland enlarges because of multiple nodules, this condition is called Multinodular Goiter. We can use medical diagnostic imaging to determine if the reason for the thyroid enlargement is because of many nodules or diffuse inflammation.

Autoimmune conditions such as Graves disease or Hashimoto's Thyroiditis can cause the thyroid gland to enlarge. As injury atrophies the gland over time, it becomes smaller. If the gland is actively inflamed, followed by an abrupt change in function, swelling, or neck redness, blood tests may show a sudden overproduction of hormones or antibodies to the gland or its receptors. This condition is known as toxic thyroiditis, which can be dangerous if essential functions such as heart rate or temperature are involved.  

Sometimes a solitary thyroid nodule develops and affects only one area of the thyroid. This process usually requires an ultrasound of the thyroid gland.

What to Expect During a Thyroid Ultrasound

Ultrasound of the thyroid uses a small hand-held transducer or wand that emits sound waves produced by special crystals sent to and from the transducer to the thyroid gland. Sound waves reflected back to the crystals in the transducer are displayed as X-ray images of the gland for a specialized radiologist to interpret. This process is also sometimes referred to as a sonogram of the thyroid.

Unlike almost all other radiology centers, a radiologist at The Women's Imaging Center directly oversees the procedure and personally examines you if there is a thyroid abnormality or concern. A thyroid ultrasound will include:


We look at the overall size of the thyroid gland, the texture, nearby neck lymph nodes, and whether there are any nodules.


We look at the thyroid vessels to gain information on the thyroid gland's health.


Although most thyroid nodules appear benign (noncancerous), some have suspicious characteristics such as an irregular shape or suspicious calcifications requiring a thyroid needle biopsy.

Thyroid Ultrasound Near Me

Meet Our Specialists

At The Women’s Imaging Center, we are advocates for improving women’s imaging. Our fellowship-trained radiologists with decades of experience use advanced imaging procedures to diagnose thyroid conditions to help patients live healthier lives.

Kelly McAleese, M.D.

Timothy Colt, M.D.

Barbara Jaeger, M.D.

John Lewin, M.D.


Frequently Asked Questions About Thyroid Ultrasound

When would my doctor order a Thyroid Ultrasound?

A doctor may order a thyroid ultrasound to evaluate any physical changes of the thyroid gland such as an enlargement or difficulty swallowing.  

What will a Thyroid Ultrasound show?

A thyroid ultrasound will show any masses or subtle changes in the thyroid gland that could be associated with benign (non-cancerous) versus malignant (cancerous) nodules. Most nodules of the thyroid are benign. 

What happens next if we find a nodule?

Depending on the size, shape, and characteristics of the nodule, a biopsy might be indicated called a Fine Needle Aspiration. Most nodules will require a follow-up ultrasound within a short interval versus a biopsy. 

How are biopsies performed of the thyroid?

Under ultrasound guidance, a very small needle is introduced into the thyroid gland after numbing the area. It feels like a light pressure for a few minutes while obtaining the cells. The sample is then interpreted by the pathologist.  

How does blood work results different from an Ultrasound?

The blood test will interpret the function of the thyroid gland while the Ultrasound evaluates the anatomy. 

What hormones does the thyroid gland produce?

The function of the thyroid can be assessed by measuring the specific hormones secreted by the thyroid gland called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) or by measuring the feedback signal from the pituitary gland (the brain of the thyroid), called Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).

Iodine is a necessary building block for the thyroid. Another substance produced by the gland called Calcitonin signals the correct amount of calcium in the blood and affects bone metabolism. 

What occurs with an underactive thyroid gland?

Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland doesn't make enough hormones. Many people with hypothyroidism may say, "I just can't lose weight even though I'm hardly eating anything," "I feel cold all the time," or "my hair is falling out, and my skin feels dry all the time." Unfortunately, diagnosing hypothyroidism is not as easy as just performing blood work because the body does everything possible to keep the hormones at a specific normal range in the bloodstream so that other organs can function properly. Therefore, thyroid function blood tests don't tell the whole story.

Additionally, many changes in thyroid function occur in our lives when other hormones are also changing, such as during pregnancy or menopause. Both women and men experience hormonal changes at about age 50. In women, we refer to this time as perimenopause, and in men, we refer to this time as "mano-pause." Many other hormonal changes also occur at this time so these changes may mask the complaints of fatigue or low libido from thyroid dysfunction.

What are signs of an overactive thyroid gland?

Some people suffer from an overly active thyroid which produces too much hormone and affects the downstream organs. This condition is called hyperthyroidism. People affected by excess thyroid hormone production may present with cardiac palpitations, flushing, memory loss or mood disturbances, unexplained weight loss, difficulty regulating body temperature, and changes in vision or muscles of the eyes. 

Insurance Options We Honor

At the Women's Imaging Center, we accept most major insurance providers and provide affordable self-pay options. If you have any questions about whether we accept your insurance, please contact us at 303-321-2273.

Schedule a Thyroid Ultrasound

If you need an ultrasound of the thyroid, our specialists are here to help. We take a multidisciplinary approach to the assessment and diagnosis of thyroid conditions to ensure you get the best care.