The thyroid gland controls metabolism and influences every part of the body’s function.
The thyroid gland is situated just over the windpipe in the neck and has a distinctive butterfly shape. It produces iodine containing hormones which regulate the speed at which the cells produce, heat, energy and proteins.
Graves’ disease is the most common condition relating to an overactive thyroid. An overactive thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine which results in your metabolism speeding up and can lead to symptoms such as:
- Weight loss
- Heat intolerance
- Muscle aches
- Personality changes
- Prominence of the eyeballs
Also known as hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid occurs when your body does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common form of hypothyroidism and can usually be treated with medication alone. Symptoms of this condition include:
- Cold intolerance
- Weight gain
- Female infertility
- Muscle cramps
- Impaired memory
Thyroid nodules are lumps within the thyroid caused by the growth of abnormal thyroid tissue. These lumps are generally benign however a small percentage will be a cancer. Blood tests, fine needle biopsies and ultrasound are usually performed to evaluate thyroid nodules. Thyroid nodules are operated on for the following reasons:
- Compression of the throat causing difficulty breathing and swallowing
- Compression of the throat affecting the vocal cords
- Risk of malignancy
- Large nodules > 4cm
Thyroglossal Duct Cyst Formation
A thyroglossal duct cyst is a lump in the throat that can be felt when swallowing. It is positioned between the isthmus and the hyoid bone. Cysts are removed to reduce swelling and the risk of infection.
Thyroid cancer is increasing in incidence and in most cases carries a good long-term prognosis. Treatment for thyroid cancer includes surgery, radioactive iodine treatment and in some cases radiotherapy. The four main types of thyroid cancer are:
- Papillary thyroid carcinoma
- Follicular thyroid carcinoma
- Medullary thyroid carcinoma
- Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma
If necessary, the thyroid gland, nodules and cancerous tumours can all be removed during surgery. At our practice we offer total thyroidectomy, hemithyroidectomy and minimally invasive approaches to treat the whole range of thyroid conditions. Risks associated with thyroid surgery are generally low and include a small chance of bleeding, parathyroid damage and voice changes. The risk of these complications in most patients is 1% or less. With thyroid surgery you can expect:
- 2 – 6cm scar
- 1 night in hospital for hemithyroidectomy and minimally invasive thyroidectomy
- 2 nights in hospital for total thyroidectomy
- 10 day recovery period
- Thyroxine medication after operation for some patients
The parathyroid gland produces a hormone responsible for controlling calcium in the body.
The four tiny pea-sized parathyroid glands are located behind the thyroid gland, and help regulate calcium levels within the body.
Hyperparathyroidism can occur when a benign tumour called an ‘adenoma’ forms on one of the small parathyroid glands. This makes the gland grow and causes it to become overactive and produce excess amounts of the parathyroid hormone (PTH). Excessive amounts of PTH leach calcium from the bones into the bloodstream.
- Bone pain
- Brittle or fragile bones (multiple bone fractures)
- Kidney stones
Treatment of hyperparathyroidism usually involves a keyhole surgery to remove the overactive gland. This stops the overproduction of hormones and restores the body back to natural balance. This procedure is normally conducted using minimally invasive techniques and includes the following:
- 0 – 1% risk of bleeding and infection
- 1 night stay in hospital, or day surgery in some cases
- 7 days recovery