The parathyroid glands are four tiny glands located in the neck. These glands control the level of calcium in the blood. The most common problem that affects the parathyroid glands is called hyperparathyroidism. This occurs when one or more of the glands is too active, causing a high blood calcium level.
Hyperparathyroidism can lead to serious health problems throughout the body, but it can be treated. Enlarged parathyroid glands are removed with surgery. This helps to restore the level of calcium level in the blood to normal. Your doctor will discuss your condition with you and explain the risks and benefits of surgery.
Evaluating your condition: To determine if you need surgery and are physically healthy for surgery, your physician will do a medical history and examine your head and neck. You may have diagnostic tests that include blood tests, which check for high levels of calcium and and PTH, urine tests, a bone density study and an imaging test.
Surgery: You may need one or more parathyroid glands removed. The decision about how many glands to remove is often made during surgery. An incision is made at the neck to remove the gland(s) and then closed with sutures, strips of surgical tape or surgical glue.
Your Recovery: Recovery from parathyroid surgery is usually quick. You may go home on the day of surgery or stay overnight. You will be given instructions for how to care for yourself once you are home and when you need to see your surgeon for a follow-up visit.
Taking Supplements: It will take time for your body to adjust after the removal of any parathyroid glands. To maintain a normal level of calcium in the blood, you may be given calcium supplements in the hospital. You will continue these at home for as long as needed. Your doctor may also prescribe vitamin D supplements. These can help your body absorb calcium.
Recovery at Home: You may feel tired and have some soreness and stiffness in your neck. Also, a sore throat is common and may last for a few days after surgery. Take care of your incision and ease back into your normal routine as instructed by your doctor.
Caring for Your Incision: Be sure to keep your incision clean and dry. Check with your doctor first before applying any creams or ointments to the incision.
Easing Back into Activity: You can get back to your normal routine as soon as you feel comfortable. Walking is fine, but avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for a few weeks. Your doctor may advise you to wait a week before driving. Return to work when you feel ready. For most people, this takes at least a few days.
Call your doctor if you notice any of the following during your recovery:
- Numbness or tingling in the fingertips or around the mouth
- Muscle cramping or spasms
- Neck swelling
- Increasing redness, swelling, or drainage at the incision site
- Nausea or vomiting
- Hoarse voice that worsens
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble swallowing
- Irregular heartbeat