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Cricoid cartilage hurts to touch. Should I be concerned?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 1986
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My 12 year old daughter has been complaining of pain at the site of the cricoid cartilage. She states, "it hurts on the outside not on the inside". She does not currently have a cold or any other symptoms that would indicate the pain would be caused by the tonsils. I did notice that her cricoid cartilage is much more prominent than usual and palpation reveals a soft tissue type of nodule anterior to the cricoid cartilage. It is very painful to her when this area is touched. Is this something that I should just keep an eye on or could this be something more serious that I need to address now?
Posted Sun, 9 Dec 2012 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Answered by Dr. Stephen Christensen 3 hours later

Thanks for the query. I'm Dr. Christensen.

I'm sorry your daughter is uncomfortable. This is an issue that should be addressed by her physician as soon as possible. While her condition cannot be diagnosed without an examination, she might have an infected thyroglossal duct cyst, which could become serious if it isn't treated.

Thyroglossal duct cysts develop during fetal development when the thyroid gland migrates from its original location at the base of the tongue to its final location beneath the cricoid cartilage. Usually these cysts contain cells that resemble skin cells, but they often contain remnants of thyroid tissue as well.

When your daughter sees her doctor, he/she will want to confirm her diagnosis. Initially, this might warrant an ultrasound examination. Antibiotics may also be prescribed. Eventually, other tests, such as a neck CT or MRI may be ordered to get a better look at the cyst and guide further therapy, which could include surgery to remove the cyst.

In any event, I'd have your doctor take a look at the nodule in your daughter's neck at your earliest opportunity.

I hope that helps, and I hope things go well!

Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

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