Learning about Parathyroid Surgery
What is parathyroid surgery and why is it a treatment option for you? If you’re suffering from parathyroid disease and you’re considering parathyroid surgery, it’s important to gather all the information you can.
First, what are the parathyroid glands? These organs, about the size of a single grain of rice, are attached to the back of your thyroid gland, which sits in the base of the throat. There are usually four of them.
They belong to the endocrine system of glands and organs, which produce hormones responsible for maintaining the body’s internal systems. This includes everything from adrenaline to growth hormones. For more information about how the parathyroid glands work click here.
If you’re asking what parathyroid surgery is for, it’s because your parathyroids have malfunctioned and require removal. This happens because the parathyroids overproduce or under-produce their essential hormone, PTH, or parathyroid hormone.
PTH plays a role in moderating calcium levels in the blood. Without enough of it, or with too much of it, calcium levels spike or crash and multiple physical and mental symptoms can result.
What is Hyperparathyroidism?
Too much PTH results in a condition known as hyperparathyroidism, or overactive parathyroid. The primary problem is an increase in blood calcium levels. In many patients there are no symptoms and the disorder is caught by tests, while in others non-specific symptoms such as fatigue, depression, decreased appetite, nausea, bone pain and muscle soreness may appear.
Hyperparathyroidism is one of the leading reasons for parathyroid surgery and one of the most likely reasons you’re asking what parathyroid surgery is. There are numerous causes.
Primary hyperparathyroidism, for one, occurs when an abnormal growth on the glands stimulates them to produce too much PTH. Secondary hyperparathyroidism occurs when low blood calcium levels, whether caused by vitamin D deficiency, kidney failure or other medical problems, spur the parathyroids to overproduce.
Hypoparathyroidism is the opposite: the production of too little PTH. It can be caused by surgery, autoimmune disorders, hemochromatosis, magnesium deficiency and several other medical problems. Symptoms include a tingling sensation in the hands and feet and around the mouth, muscle cramps, and spasms of the hands and feet. Some with this condition also experience fatigue, insomnia, bone pain, abdominal pain and headaches.
So what is parathyroid surgery, and why do you need it? A parathyroidectomy, as it’s called, is simply an operation to access and remove one or more of your parathyroid glands. This is done either because the parathyroids are overactive or because there’s an unhealthy growth on the glands. It is especially used in cases where overproduction of PTH leads to osteoporosis.
Parathyroidectomy is a routine, safe surgery conducted under general anaesthesia. Recovery time is brief, with the glands themselves returning to full operation in a matter of minutes.
If you have questions or concerns about hyperparathyroidism and parathyroid surgery see your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a thyroid surgeon.