Answering Thyroid Questions on To Your Health
About 20 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. For some of those people, surgery will be part of their treatment plan. Dr. Joel Turner, an endocrine surgery specialist, Vice Chair of GBMC’s Department of Surgery, and Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery, discussed when surgery may be considered, what recovery from surgery is like, and what causes thyroid disorders.
“Your thyroid is your thermostat,” he explained. “When it’s working too hard, which is known as hyperthyroidism, your heart can race, you can get overheated easily, you may have a tremor, or a big appetite but still lose weight. When it’s working too slowly, called hypothyroidism, you may gain weight even though you’re not eating much, be more sensitive to cold and get fatigued easily, or have a slower than normal heart rate.”
The evaluation of most thyroid symptoms begins with your primary care doctor and a simple blood test. If the blood test results are abnormal, your doctor will refer you to an endocrinologist for a more in-depth evaluation. The good news is that most people have normal thyroid function, even some people with thyroid nodules, and that for many people with thyroid disorders, symptoms can be managed with medication.
Dr. Turner explained there are two types of thyroid surgery, one that removes just half the thyroid and one that removes the whole gland. Which type of surgery is needed depends on the disorder. Recovery after surgery is fairly quick, and most people are feeling much better and back to their normal activities in a week or so.
“I tell my patients ‘Let your discomfort be your guide.’ If you’re feeling good a few days after surgery, you can go for run. Just listen to your body’s signals,” Dr. Turner says. “Most people go home with no restrictions on their activities or what they can eat and are driving in a week or less and back to work.”
Dr. Turner also mentioned that the American Thyroid Association’s website is a good resource if you have questions about thyroid health.