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Can I Live Without My Thyroid Gland?

As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland plays a crucial role in your health. Located at the base of your neck, the thyroid gland produces hormones that control a number of functions, including your heart rate and how quickly your body burns calories.

Thyroid disease is common, and in some cases may require removal of your thyroid (thyroidectomy). Fortunately, you can live without your thyroid. You will need long-term thyroid hormone replacement therapy to give you the hormone your thyroid normally produces.

Whether you’ve received a thyroid disorder diagnosis or have been told that you must have your thyroid removed, you can rely on board-certified internal medicine physician Sam Morayati, MD to provide top-quality comprehensive care. 

What is thyroid disease?

Thyroid disease occurs when a condition affects the production or use of thyroid hormones. Different conditions can cause your thyroid to produce too much or too little hormone.   

Autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease)

In autoimmune thyroiditis, the immune system produces antibodies that attack the thyroid or its proteins. Over time the gradual damage to the thyroid prevents it from doing its job and thyroid hormone levels remain low. Autoimmune thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

You may have some or all of these symptoms.

Grave’s disease

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Graves’ disease is an immune disorder that causes the thyroid to produce too much hormone. If you have Graves’ disease you may experience:

Some people have hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) that isn’t caused by an immune system disorder. If your thyroid makes too much hormone, your doctor may recommend removing all or part of your thyroid.

When part of the thyroid is removed, the remaining tissue is often enough to produce the necessary hormones. When it’s not, your doctor will prescribe thyroid replacement medication. If all of your thyroid is removed, you will need lifelong thyroid replacement. 

Thyroid cancer 

A diagnosis of thyroid cancer can be scary. Fortunately, it rarely spreads outside of the thyroid, and because of this, the overall five-year survival rate for thyroid cancer is 98%. Thyroid cancer is the most common reason for thyroid removal.

Life without your thyroid

 If your doctor recommends thyroid removal or you’ve already had your thyroid removed, you must partner with your doctor to optimize thyroid hormone replacement. This involves routinely checking your thyroid hormone levels to avoid overtreatment and undertreatment.

The body must have just enough thyroid hormone. Too much or too little causes symptoms. It can take some time to find the optimal dose and stabilize your symptoms. However, thyroid hormone replacement therapy is fairly straightforward.

Aside from having your thyroid levels tested regularly and taking medication daily to give your body the thyroid hormone it needs, people without a thyroid live an otherwise normal life. 

Adjusting to life without your thyroid means taking medication and checking in with your doctor. Most people adjust easily. The most important aspect is making sure to take your medication each day. 

If you have your thyroid and have symptoms, Dr. Morayati can perform a comprehensive thyroid evaluation. If you need replacement therapy, we can help.  To learn more, and schedule an appointment with Dr. Morayati at our Burlington, North Carolina office to discuss your thyroid health. Here at Burlington Medical Center, we offer in-person and telehealth appointments.

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