What's it like: To have your thyroid removed

Thyroid removal helps treat cancer and overactive glands.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: March 23, 2013 at 12:44 am •  Published: March 24, 2013

Why get your thyroid removed?

Your thyroid gland sits over your trachea and helps regulate your body's metabolism.

Also, your thyroid serves as a master volume control on your body's response to adrenaline.

One of the most common reasons you might have your thyroid is removed is because your doctor either has found or suspects you have thyroid cancer.

Another reason would be that you are suffering from an enlarged thyroid, and it is causing you to have a choking sensation or difficulty swallowing. You might also have your thyroid removed if you suffer from an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, and nonsurgical alternatives have failed.

Although there are other ways to treat thyroid eye disease, removing your thyroid also can alleviate the disease's symptoms, which includes bulging eyes, double vision or difficulty closing your eyes.

What happens when you get your thyroid removed?

To begin, you'll likely be placed under general anesthesia. Your surgeon will make a collar incision, right above your collar bone. The size of the incision will depend on how big your thyroid is. The surgery takes between 1 hours to 2 hours.

Your surgeon must be careful to not injure the nerve that runs behind the thyroid that controls the vocal cords or to injure the parathyroid glands, which are on the thyroid gland in your neck. They're pea-size glands that help your body regulate calcium and phosphorous. They're not always easy to avoid during surgery.

Does it hurt?

You likely will be in the hospital from one day to three days after surgery. Once you're home, the area around the incision will be sore. You should avoid exposure to the sun while your scar is healing. This will better ensure the skin doesn't get darker while healing.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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