The thyroid and parathyroid are separate glands located in the neck. Each serves an important function: the thyroid generates a hormone that regulates the body’s metabolism, while the parathyroid controls the level of calcium in the blood. Together, they are responsible for many of the body’s daily functions.
The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone (TH) that controls your body’s energy production and consumption.
This hormone helps regulate a variety of body processes including heart rate, body temperature and how quickly you burn calories. When too much or too little hormone is generated, your health is negatively affected.
Hyperthyroidism is the name given to a disorder that is the result of too much TH hormone. This causes the metabolism to speed up, leading to rapid or irregular heartbeat, anxiety, irritability, nervousness, fatigue, heat intolerance, excessive sweating, tremors, weight loss and increased bowel movements. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by an autoimmune disorder known as Grave’s disease, nodules, goiter, inflammation of the thyroid gland and too much iodine. The condition is usually treated with drugs such as beta-blockers, antithyroid medications like methimazole, radioactive iodine or surgery.
When the opposite occurs and too little TH hormone is produced, the metabolism slows down and results in a condition known as hypothyroidism. Symptoms include depression, fatigue, sore muscles, dry skin, puffy face, swollen legs, weight gain, constipation and sensitivity to cold. An autoimmune disorder called Hasihomoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Others include an inflammation of the thyroid gland called lymphocytic thyroiditis, thyroid destruction following radioactive iodine treatment or surgery, pituitary gland injury and iodine deficiency. Treatment for this disorder involves life-long therapy with synthetic thyroid hormone.
Thyroid Gland Removal
When certain conditions interfere with normal thyroid production, surgical removal of the thyroid gland is performed. This is usually done when thyroid cancer has been detected, an otherwise benign thyroid nodule grows so large it causes problems or hyperthyroidism (a disorder in which excess thyroid hormone is produced) does not respond to treatment with medications or radioactive iodine, though this is rare.
Thyroid surgery is known as a thyroidectomy. Two types of procedures are performed: a total thyroidectomy to remove the entire gland or a subtotal thyroidectomy, which removes part of the gland.
In a total thyroidectomy, the entire gland and surrounding lymph nodes are removed. The patient is given drugs to suppress thyroid hormone production, in addition to radioactive iodine. A subtotal thyroidectomy involves removal of one complete gland and part of the other, which is usually reserved for treating hyperthyroidism caused by Grave’s disease.
Effectiveness of Thyroid Surgery
The effectiveness of any surgical thyroid procedure depends on the type of cancer present and how much it has spread. Overall, the surgery is considered safe, but may lead to complications that include injury to the vocal cords and larynx (which could cause hoarseness, changes in the voice and problems speaking or swallowing), injury to the parathyroid glands (which could cause hypoparathyroidism, a separate condition in which too little parathyroid hormone is produced), difficulty breathing and the usual risks associated with most surgical procedures (bleeding and infection).
The parathyroid is a group of glands that produce a hormone (PTH) to regulate calcium and phosphorous levels in the body.
Bone and tooth development and strength are dependent on calcium. As with the thyroid gland, too much or too little PTH causes a variety of medical problems.
Hyperparathyroidism occurs when too much PTH is secreted into the bloodstream. This creates an imbalance of high calcium levels and low phosphorous levels. Symptoms include osteoporosis, kidney stones, bone and joint pain, weakness, lethargy, loss of concentration, depression, loss of appetite, constipation, nausea and vomiting. The cause may be linked to a benign tumor or enlarged parathyroid gland. Surgery is the preferred treatment for hyperparathyroidism.
When too little PTH is produced, calcium levels in the blood drop while phosphorous levels rise. This condition is known as hypoparathyroidism and causes weakness, anxiety, fatigue, muscle aches and cramps, headaches, muscle spasms, cataracts, depression, mood swings, memory loss and tingling sensations in the fingers, toes and lips. Injury to the parathyroid glands, endocrine disorders and genetic conditions are the most common causes of hypoparathyroidism. Calcium carbonate and vitamin D supplements are given to restore the proper balance of calcium and phosphorous in the body.
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