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How To Live Without A Thyroid Gland

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It Regulates Practically Everything

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Weighing less than an ounce, the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland is located low in the front of the neck. It is below the pharynx (voice box), wrapping around the larynx (wind­pipe). The thyroid helps regulate metabo­lism by controlling various endo­crine system glands.

Think of the thyroid like a command center that makes efficient use of the energy we possess. An under­active thyroid gland (hypo­thyroidism) can manifest the following symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Difficulty with learning
  • Dry, brittle hair and nails
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Forgetfulness
  • Heavy and/or irregular menstrual flow
  • Increased frequency of miscarriages
  • Increased sensitivity to medications
  • Pervasive fatigue
  • Puffy face
  • Sore muscles
  • Weight gain and fluid retention
Thyroid Awareness Month

If these are the symptoms of hypo­thyroidism, how do people function after surgical removal of their thyroid gland?

My mother had her thyroid removed in the early 1960s. As a child, I was reminded by the charac­teristic 1-inch horizontal neck scar that she initially tried to conceal with jewelry but eventually faded. Hence, I have seen that life without the gland is pos­sible. Even so, consider­ing its importance, thyroidec­tomy is a last resort.

Thyroidectomy Reasons and Possible Complications

In 2014, 15,888 thyroidec­tomies were performed on Medicare patients in the United States. There are three primary reasons for surgically removing the thyroid gland. They are: thyroid cancer, noncancerous thyroid enlarge­ment (goiter), and over­active thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

The most common complication after total or near-total thyroidec­tomy is hypocalcemia secondary to hypo­para­thyroidi­sm, which occurs in about a third of cases. In a multi-center retro­spective study of 1792 post-surgical patients, 48.3% developed post­operative hypopara­thyroidism at discharge. Of these, 14.5% cases were permanent. Many times, the complica­tion is asympto­matic.

When symptoms develop, they can range from mild pares­the­sias to painful tetany and even life-threatening complications, such as laryngeal spasm or arrhythmia.

How to Function Without a Thyroid

How is life following a thyroidec­tomy possible? In the sense that people can live without them, the thyroid gland is “expendable.” By making adjust­ments to a hormone-replacement prescrip­tion, an endocrinologist can regulate the patient's metabolism. Doctors also advise regular exercise and vitamin supple­ments.

To support the writing of useful articles about endocrinology, ClinicalPosters sells human anatomy posters, scientific posters and other products online. Slide extra posters into DeuPair Frames without removing from the wall or leave an encourag­ing comment to keep the work going. Stay safe and A Bit More Healthy.

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