The thyroid gland is one of the major endocrine glands that make hormones essential for normal functioning of the cells and tissues of the body and secretes them directly into the bloodstream.
These hormones are Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3) which influences body cells and tissues and controls the speed of body processes or what is known as the ‘metabolic rate’; and calcitonin that controls calcium levels in the blood. In the absence of a thyroid gland, however, the T3 and T4 hormones could be replaced by medication, while calcitonin may or may not require substitution.
An increase in the production of the T4 and T3 hormones could result in a speeding up of the metabolic rate, making you work faster, and feeling overactive, anxious, craving or hungry for more food than normal, despite losing or even gaining weight rapidly. This condition is called hyperthyroidism.
Likewise, a decrease in the above hormones could result in tiredness and feeling sluggish; the body processes begin to work slower than the normal rate, resulting in ‘hypothyroidism’.
Other abnormalities of the thyroid include:
Thyroid disorders and their symptoms are assessed by the doctors using a clinical examination and measures such as:
Depending on the results of this initial investigation, Hyperthyroidism is generally treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid drugs, failing which, surgery is an option. Complete removal of the thyroid gland, or thyroidectomy, is recommended:
Sometimes, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove only one half (or a lobe) of the thyroid gland. This process is called a thyroid lobectomy.
Prior to a thyroidectomy, your doctor or endocrinologist will think it critical to ensure that your hyperthyroidism conditions are managed well before the actual surgery. This is to eliminate any risk of heart disease and to avoid the release of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream, which can be dangerous at the time of surgery. This may be controlled with the help of beta-blockers, anti-thyroid medication, or elemental (non-radioactive) iodine a week before the operation.
A thyroidectomy surgery will take you about one or two days to recover after which you will be discharged from the hospital. As with any surgical procedure, it is better to be educated or aware of the risks and complications associated with the operation. For example, you may or may not experience some post-operative reactions such as numbness or pain in the neck areas, breathing or swallowing difficulties, and bleeding, or infections. However, the majority of these are rare and can be treated by the doctor. Some other risks include:
If you think you are a candidate for a thyroidectomy, do discuss with your doctor about the risks you are likely to face owing to other existing health conditions, the precautions you need to take, as well as the benefits and post-operative care you will need after the surgery.