Thyroidectomy recovery

Thyroidectomy recovery

Table of Contents

When can I return to work and normal activity?

What happens to your body after your thyroid is removed?

Is a thyroidectomy major surgery?

Can you lose weight after having your thyroid removed?

How thyroidectomy recovery would be?

Your recovery will depend on the extent and type of surgery you have received. It is common to feel tired in the first few weeks, particularly in the afternoon. You should be back to normal activities by four weeks. Any stitches or wound clips will be removed (usually after ten days) either in the outpatient follow-up appointment. The appropriate arrangement will be explained to you before you leave. Take care when bathing, showering or hair washing, particularly until any wound stitches or clips have been removed. Gently pat dry the area. Until fully healed, avoid using perfumes or aftershaves, scented soaps or creams as these can irritate the area. Any pain or discomfort, bruising or swelling will settle after one to two weeks.

For the first two weeks, sleeping propped-up with pillows will help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. The nursing staff will discuss with you how and when any prescribed pain relief medication should be taken. Follow a healthy diet and avoid alcohol until fully recovered. A diet of softer, easy-to-eat foods may be easier to swallow until the throat feels more comfortable. Avoid or cut down on smoking as it interferes with the body’s ability to heal and also irritates the throat. Staff can provide advice on quitting, aids to help you quit (e.g. nicotine patches) and contacts for support groups.

Following surgery, you may experience:

  • Voice changes, such as, a hoarse voice, difficulty in speaking loudly, voice fatigue, and a change in the tone of your voice. These changes are due to damage to the laryngeal nerves that supply your voice box (larynx) during surgery. This may last a few days or a few weeks but is rarely permanent.
  • You may experience low blood calcium levels due to damage to the parathyroid glands during surgery. Again, this is usually only a temporary problem treated with calcium supplements over a few days. Signs that you may have low calcium are numbness and a tingling feeling in your lips, hands, and the bottom of your feet, a crawly feeling in your skin, muscle cramps and spasms, bad headaches, anxiety, and depression.

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When can I return to work and normal activity?

The neck muscles may feel stiff and sore for a few days. Most patients return to their daily activities in a few days and work, with some limitations, within a week. Strenuous activity and heavy lifting should be avoided for at least a week. During this time, it is helpful to move the neck from side to side and roll the shoulders with gentle stretches to prevent stiffness.

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The following will help your recovery:

  • good posture
  • neck and shoulder exercises/stretches
  • scar massage
  • gradually returning/building up to heavier physical activity

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What happens to your body after your thyroid is removed?

If only part of your thyroid is removed, the remaining portion typically takes over the function of the entire thyroid gland. So you might not need thyroid hormone therapy.

If your entire thyroid is removed, your body can’t make thyroid hormone. Without replacement, you’ll develop signs and symptoms of underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Therefore, you’ll need to take a pill every day that contains the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine (Synthroid, Unithroid, others).

This hormone replacement is identical to the hormone normally made by your thyroid gland and performs all of the same functions. Your doctor will test your blood to know how much thyroid hormone replacement you need.

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Is a thyroidectomy major surgery?

A thyroidectomy is a common but major surgery with serious risks and potential complications. However, the two most common risks are:

  • damage to the recurrent laryngeal nerves (nerves connected to your vocal cords)
  • damage to the parathyroid glands (glands that control the level of calcium in your body)

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Can you lose weight after having your thyroid removed?

The key to weight loss is keeping up with medical treatment and taking steps on your own to keep your weight in control.

Step 1

Take prescription thyroxine, or T4 hormone replacements such as Synthroid and Levothyroxine. You will have to replace these thyroid hormones through prescription drugs for the rest of your life. without hormone replacements, your body enters a state of hypothyroidism after a thyroidectomy. Hypothyroidism slows down the metabolism, causing weight gain.

Step 2

Consider triiodothyronine, or T3, hormone replacements. Triiodothyronine is one of the types of thyroid hormones, but it is not typically replaced with prescription hormones because it is not as prevalent. However, Thyroid-Info explains that a T3 supplement taken in conjunction with prescription hormone replacements can better balance your body and make up for the lack of thyroid, thereby increasing potential weight loss.

Step 3

Reduce the amount of complex carbohydrates in your diet. Examples of complex carbohydrates include potatoes, white bread, pasta and rice. According to Thyroid-Info, hypothyroidism is linked to insulin resistance, making it more difficult for your body to metabolize such foods. Eating too many complex carbohydrates can make you gain weight easily after a thyroidectomy.

Step 4

Eat a diet that consists of lean meats, green leafy vegetables, low-sugar fruits and low-fat dairy products. Foods with a high fat or sugar content will make it more difficult to lose weight, even if you are on hormone replacements.

Step 5

Exercise regularly. If you are new to exercising, try walking as often as you can. Then you can build up to high-intensity cardio activities such as running and kick-boxing, as well as strength-training routines. Losing fat and building muscle will further enhance your metabolism to make up for your lack of thyroid gland.

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