Problems Living Without a Thyroid

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Common reasons for removing the thyroid include thyroid cancer, enlarged thyroid, and uncontrollable hyperthyroidism. Life after a person has their thyroid removed can be normal and healthy. A patient's health after the operation will depend on how much of the thyroid is removed. If you take the proper steps to improve your health after the thyroidectomy, you can avoid the problems that can arise following the surgery.

Partial Thyroidectomy

If a portion of the thyroid is removed, what remains normally takes over the function of the missing gland. Hormone therapy is normally not necessary in the case of a partial thyroidectomy. Many endocrinologists choose this method of surgery with the hope to avoid an underactive thyroid. However, it is possible for the remaining part of the thyroid function to become imbalanced. In this case, proper treatment is required. This may include a second surgery and the subsequent removal of the remaining thyroid.

Hypothyroidism

If the entire thyroid is removed, it may take some time to find the right balance in medication and hormone-therapy drugs. Since the body can no longer produce thyroid hormone, a person will fall into a state of hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid.

Hypoparathyroidism

Hypoparathyroidism is an endocrine disorder that is often caused after thyroid removal or damage to the thyroid. Hypoparathyroidism occurs when the parathyroid glands located in the neck do not produce enough hormone, the parathyroid hormone. Some of the symptoms include tingling sensation in the lips, fingers, and toes, cramping muscles, pain, dry hair, brittle nails and skin dryness, problems with eyesight and many other health issues.

Hypocalcemia

One of the most common complications after a thyroidectomy is a deficiency in calcium called hypocalcemia and may be related to hyperparathyroidism. The parathyroid controls the calcium levels in the body, but if these are damaged during surgery, it can cause the parathyroid to stop controlling the calcium and result in lower levels. Common symptoms include numbness and tingling, changes in skin sensation, headaches, muscle spasms, and an increase in anxiety and depression. Symptoms normally begin within a few days after surgery.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

It will be necessary to take thyroid replacement medication for the rest of your life. These are necessary to maintain multiple body functions, including metabolism. An endocrinologist will require regular blood tests to determine how much hormone replacement medication you need and blood work continues until your thyroid hormone levels are stable. Even when your hormone levels are stable, hormone replacement therapy will be required. Once someone is stable, they should be checked once per year.

Thyroxine Tablets

If you had cancer, it may be necessary to take thyroxine tablets, which will help prevent cancer from returning. Thyroxine tablets stop the body from producing TSH, which helps some cancer types grow.

Considerations

Living without a thyroid will require diligence as you maintain your own health as much as possible by having regular physician visits and blood work. Maintaining hormone levels is necessary after having a thyroid removed and requires daily medication and regular monitoring.

There is no way to prevent an underactive thyroid, so hormone replacement therapy is a standard treatment. Since there is no method of curing hypothyroidism, it is important to replace the hormone levels. Ongoing thyroid checks are critical to maintaining a healthy body. Regular blood work will help prevent the over-replacement of hormone levels.

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