The thyroid is a small gland in the front of your neck. It’s in a very sensitive place, and the surgery is somewhat risky. But you got through it. You’ve come back home feeling tired, with an incision in your neck. You’re tired, but you have trouble falling asleep.
Maybe you’re worried you might hurt your neck in your sleep. After all, you have to take care of the incision, and you can’t do that when you’re asleep. Is it normal for your throat to hurt? Is there anything you can do to speed up the healing process? How long does it usually take for your throat to go back to normal? What changes can you expect now that you’ve had the surgery?
It’s perfectly normal for your throat to be sore and to have trouble speaking in the first couple of weeks. Your voice might even have changed temporarily. Rest assured, the hardest part is already over. Elevating your head while sleeping reduces the chances of agitating your neck. You may have slight pain and difficulty swallowing for up to 5 weeks after the surgery, but your symptoms should all reduce within the first two weeks.
Managing the pain in your throat
Immediately after the surgery, you were probably kept in a recovery room for a few hours to get rid of the effects of anesthesia. Unfortunately, this means that you will start to feel pain again.
When at the hospital, you have the option of asking the surgeon for pain medication. Your neck might feel stiff and solid, but you can always inform the nurse. But what can you do once you’re at home?
It’s important to understand that you will always have some pain within the first few days, but the below steps can help keep the pain minimal.
- Having a very soft diet – Solids and thick foods are going to be very hard to swallow. But you also need your nutrition, especially since you’re recovering from major surgery. Sticking to a liquid diet is a good idea for the first couple of days. Depending on your progress, you can decide if you can move onto solid but soft foods such as eggs or yogurt.
- Sleep – The best medicine. Your throat is recovering after surgery, and you might feel more tired than usual. This is your body’s way of asking you to get some rest. It would be best if you always used pillows to elevate your neck while sleeping after thyroid surgery. Elevating the head of your bed by 40 degrees can also help reduce swelling and inflammation. This is especially important if the doctors made incisions on both sides of your neck. Don’t hesitate to take a nap during the middle of the day.
- Throat lozenges – The feeling of having something stuck in your throat can be very annoying. It makes swallowing painful and even discourages people from trying to eat. But a throat lozenge can help lubricate your throat and reduce this feeling. They can also easily be obtained from a pharmacy over the counter without a prescription.
- Cleaning the incision – The incision should be kept dry for the first two days, which means being very careful when showering. Failure to do this may result in your throat getting infected, leading to much more pain and swelling. Gently wash the area surrounding the incision with a wet cloth during the next few days, pat it dry and replace the dressing.
- Apply moisturizing cream – After about 2 or 3 weeks, you might notice that the skin around your throat gets quite dry. The scar hardening is, of course, a natural part of the healing, but you can reduce the discomfort and keep your skin moist by gently applying some moisturizer.
These tips can help you get some quality sleep by minimizing the pain caused as a result of thyroid surgery. And the best part is this sleep will also help your healing process.
Dos and don’ts after thyroid surgery
The below tables show some key things that you should do for the first few weeks, to recover from the thyroidectomy quickly and fully.
|Avoid public areas with many people||Go swimming|
|Stay home as much as possible||Drive for the first few weeks|
|Take some time off work||Push yourself physically or mentally|
|Get periodical blood tests to check your calcium levels||Ignore your doctor’s instructions|
|Take your medication on time||Skip medication or take multiple pills in one go|
|Properly clean and maintain the incision||Scratch or touch the incision|
While the above instructions can help you care for yourself from home. when in doubt, always consult your doctor.
After thyroidectomy: The signs of trouble
Now that we’ve covered all the things that you can and should do after thyroid surgery, let’s take a quick look at the signs your body might be trying to show indicating an issue.
- Sudden bleeding – A fairly obvious sign, sudden bleeding through your bandages is a definite sign of a problem. A certain amount of bleeding is expected during the first few days, but if you have not had any bleeding during the past 24 hours and notice a sudden increase, please contact your doctor immediately. This is a severe condition. Studies have shown that only 2.1% of 3,660 patients who have had thyroidectomy have experienced any complications due to post-surgery bleeding.
- Difficulty breathing, speaking – While you can expect some difficulty during the first 24 hours, continued or considerable difficulty can be symptoms of vocal cord abnormalities.
- Difficulty swallowing – You tried drinking and eating only soft foods but still have pain when swallowing. The pain doesn’t seem to decrease with time. If no progress is noticed, this might be a good time to check in with your doctor.
- Fever, swelling in the throat, or pus – These symptoms indicate an infection in your throat. This can gravely complicate your health and recovery, so you must contact your doctor immediately.
- Leg pain – You might be surprised to see this completely unrelated body part on this list. After all, your legs are so far away from your throat. But muscle cramps and pain in your legs are a sign of calcium deficiency. Some patients have also described numbness, headaches, or a tingling feeling in their legs, indicating a calcium deficiency. The doctor will prescribe calcium supplements when informed.,
If you do have any of the above symptoms, make sure you contact your doctor immediately, as all of the above can lead to much more serious complications.
While these facts can help you identify a problem, never hesitate to consult your doctor if you feel you aren’t getting better. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
What to expect after thyroid surgery
We’ve seen the signs to look out for. But what can you expect to see after your thyroid surgery?
The below symptoms might be the price you have to pay for a few weeks.
- Nausea – usually caused by the pain medication, you might feel the constant need to vomit. In this case, you will have to try and reduce the pain medication as your nutrition is crucial for your recovery. Always try to reduce dependency on pain killers as much as you can.
- Fever – While this can be a symptom of a bigger problem such as infection. A very mild fever for an hour or so can be expected. Make sure you take deep breaths and drink water to help reduce the fever.
- Constipation – By now, you know that you might have to take calcium supplements. You’re also on a limited diet, so that digestion problems might surface. This is to be expected, but increasing the fiber content in your diet can help.
After the recovery period, you will have to take thyroid replacement medication continuously. But the good news is that you will be able to live a happy and healthy life free of complications after the first few weeks.
Any changes in your voice will return to normal, as will your lifestyle. Depending on why the doctor recommended the surgery, you will also be rid of a probable life-threatening condition. Checking your thyroid at the convenience of your own home is also quite simple.
So make sure you follow the above guidelines to get through this ordeal with a few minor inconveniences and as always, remember to contact your doctor if you have any confusion regarding your medication.