Nodules are abnormal tissue growths that can be found anywhere in the body. Although they are often benign, some nodules are symptoms of an underlying health condition.

This article will look at several different kinds of nodules including their causes, symptoms, and locations. It will also survey some treatment options for nodules of each kind.

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When a person develops swollen lymph nodes, or lymphadenopathy, nodules may form on some of their lymph nodes.


Lymph nodes are an important component of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps the body filter various substances from bodily fluids. Lymph nodes are small glands that assist in this task.

Lymphadenopathy can be due to various conditions. These include:

  • infections, which could be bacterial, fungal, or viral in origin
  • autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • lymphoma
  • leukemia
  • other cancers

Although many of these conditions are serious, for most people, lymphadenopathy does not have a serious cause.

Symptoms and location

On average, an adult’s lymph nodes should be around 1 centimeter (cm) in diameter. When they get much larger than that, doctors may diagnose lymphadenopathy, especially if the person has other symptoms. Those may include:

  • painful lymph nodes
  • fever
  • chills
  • night sweats
  • weight changes
  • fatigue

The most easily accessible lymph nodes are around the neck, armpits, and groin.


Treatment for swollen lymph nodes varies depending on the underlying cause.

In cases where the lymphadenopathy is due to a cancer or cancer-like condition, treatment options will typically include:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • surgery

When swollen lymph nodes happen because of an autoimmune condition, doctors will typically recommend immune therapy or glucocorticoids.

If the cause is an infection, treatment will most often involve:

  • antibiotics
  • antivirals
  • antifungals

Some medications can also cause swollen lymph nodes. If this occurs, doctors may recommend a change of medication.

Vocal cord nodules, or vocal nodules, are nodules that form on a person’s vocal cords.


The vocal cords are two folds of tissue that vibrate at different frequencies when air moves through them. This process is essential to speech. The vocal cords are part of the “voice box” or larynx.

The most common cause of vocal cord nodules is overuse. This can happen when someone talks or sings too much or too loudly. When this occurs, the vocal cords can become swollen, which may lead to the formation of nodules.

Symptoms and location

The larynx is found in the upper portion of a person’s throat. Because vocal cord nodules form on the inside of the larynx, their effects are usually heard before they are seen.

The main symptom of vocal cord nodules is a hoarser voice. Vocal cord nodules can sometimes cause other changes to a person’s voice, too. These changes arise because the vocal cord nodules affect the frequency of the air that passes through the larynx.


The most common and effective treatment for vocal cord nodules is to rest the voice. This involves talking or singing less, and doing so at a lower volume. Vocal cord nodules tend to disappear quite quickly following rest.

In some cases, doctors may recommend speech therapy. This can help some people control the intensity of their speech. For example, people with hearing difficulties can benefit from speech therapy, as they may inadvertently speak quite loudly.

In rare cases, surgeons may need to remove the vocal cord nodules.

Thyroid nodules are nodules which form within a person’s thyroid gland.


The thyroid gland is an important organ that produces triiodothyronine and thyroxine. These hormones help regulate a person’s metabolism, the bodily process that converts food into energy.

Scientists have identified many different risk factors for thyroid nodules. These include:

  • exposure to ionising radiation
  • tobacco smoking
  • alcohol consumption
  • metabolic syndrome
  • obesity

Around 90% of thyroid nodules are clinically insignificant and benign. However, thyroid cancer causes between 4 to 6.5% of thyroid nodules.

Symptoms and location

The thyroid gland sits at the front of the neck. Thyroid nodules can be quite large, and some people with these nodules may be able to feel them.

Other symptoms of thyroid nodules may include a feeling of pressure in the neck or neck pain.


Because thyroid nodules have many different causes, treatment options can vary. Sometimes doctors will recommend no treatment at all.

If cancer is causing a person’s thyroid nodule, then the most common treatment is surgery to remove some or all of the thyroid gland. A person with thyroid cancer may also receive:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • radioactive iodine treatment

Lung nodules are nodules which form on the inside of a person’s lungs.


The vast majority of solitary pulmonary nodules (SPNs) are benign.

These nodules, which measure less than 3 cm in diameter, can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

  • bacterial, fungal, or viral infections
  • inflammatory disorders
  • pulmonary infraction
  • lung cancer

Symptoms and location

SPNs do not usually attach to the border of the lungs. Because these nodules are well within the body, people cannot feel them.

SPNs have few telltale signs. Doctors tend to discover SPNs accidentally, such as during scans meant to detect something else. Around 95% of the SPNs seen via scan are symptomless.


Because most SPNs are benign, they rarely require treatment. However, if these nodules are symptoms of lung cancer, treatment will typically include:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • immunotherapy
  • surgery

Because there are many causes for nodules, doctors must often use an array of techniques to make a diagnosis. These include:

  • physical examination
  • examinations of a person’s medical history
  • scans, such as MRIs or CT scans
  • biopsies
  • blood tests

In many cases, nodules are nothing to worry about. However, sometimes a serious condition can cause nodules.

For this reason, anyone who notices the development of a nodule should talk to a doctor. By getting an examination early on, people can avoid complications due to more serious causes.

Nodules can develop all over the body for a variety of reasons. Although they are not always a cause for concern, nodules may indicate underlying problems with the lymph nodes, vocal cords, thyroid, or lungs.