The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland that is located just below the Adam's apple in the lower neck region. Its shape is likened to a butterfly due to the presence of two side lobes that are connected by a band of tissue called isthmus in the middle. The healthy functioning of the thyroid gland is essential for the overall growth and development of the body. This gland releases hormones that regulate metabolic processes. The hormones that are secreted by the thyroid gland are referred to as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Once these are released into the bloodstream, they act on the cells and tissues, and help to regulate the rate at which energy is produced and expended.
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) and hypothyroidism (sluggish thyroid gland) are medical conditions that are associated with the inability of the thyroid gland to release these hormones in right amounts. While these medical conditions pose health risks, thyroid cancer, thyroiditis and thyroid nodules are other thyroid conditions that can become a cause of serious concern. In severe cases, doctors may suggest the patient to undergo thyroidectomy, which is a surgical procedure involving the partial or total removal of the thyroid gland. In this article, we will find out why one may suffer from weight gain after thyroidectomy.
The Need for Thyroidectomy
Thyroidectomy refers to the surgical removal of the entire thyroid gland or a part of it. Most of the time, drug therapy can help in treating an overactive or a sluggish thyroid gland. If the gland is not producing sufficient amounts of thyroid hormones, synthetic thyroid hormone is prescribed. On the other hand, anti-thyroid drugs are prescribed if the gland is secreting excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. Thyroidectomy is seen as the last resort, and is considered only if drug therapy is not providing the desired results. Removal of thyroid gland may also be deemed necessary if tests reveal presence of cancerous cells in nodules or abnormal growths in the thyroid gland.
Surgery may be suggested if the thyroid gland has enlarged considerably. Conducting certain tests prior to the surgery also help the doctors decide whether the patient needs a partial or a total thyroidectomy. As is the case with most surgical procedures, certain risks are involved with thyroid surgery also. Complications of thyroid surgery include bleeding, infection, damage to the laryngeal nerve or anesthesia-related complications. Some of the risks can be lowered by using a minimally invasive thyroid surgery procedure.
Weight Gain after the Surgical Removal of Thyroid Gland
Since thyroid hormone plays a vital role in regulating the metabolic processes, once the thyroid gland is removed, the body is unable to produce thyroid hormones on its own. This is the reason why people who have undergone thyroidectomy experience symptoms of hypothyroidism after the surgery. Fatigue, dry skin, forgetfulness, brittle hair, brittle fingernails, fluid retention and intolerance to cold are some of the symptoms that may be experienced on account of hypothyroidism.
Weight gain is another symptom that is commonly experienced by patients. This is attributed to the slowing down of metabolic processes due to the removal of thyroid gland. In the absence of the thyroid gland, the body is unable to expend the energy that is released by breaking down the food that we ingest. Though average weight gain after this surgery is about 20 pounds, dietary habits or other lifestyle-related factors may have an impact on the amount of weight gained by the patient. This is the reason why patients have to be very careful about their diet. They must consume foods that are easily digestible. A wise thing to do would be to consult a nutritionist in order to find out the best diet plan.
Once the thyroid gland is removed, one becomes dependent on the synthetic thyroid hormones for metabolism or other functions performed by the thyroid gland. Since certain dietary supplements or drugs can interfere with the absorption of the synthetic thyroid hormones, consult your doctor before taking any supplements. One must also stay physically active so as to counter the weight gain that may result from surgical removal of the thyroid gland.
Doctors recommend partial or total thyroidectomy only if the other treatment options don't seem to help a patient suffering from a thyroid problem. In order to speed up recovery, one must follow the guidelines given by the doctors. However, one must be ready for the after effects that result from the removal of the thyroid gland. Weight gain or any other symptom, which are a direct result of slowed metabolism rate, can be countered with the use of synthetic thyroid hormone coupled with a few lifestyle-related changes.