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Can You Survive Without a Thyroid Gland?

How important is the thyroid gland? Can you live without one? Find out about the thyroid gland – and whether it’s essential.

There’s a small, butterfly-shaped organ that lies in the neck just below the Adam’s apple called the thyroid gland. Most people take this hard-working organ for granted. But don’t underestimate its importance. Can you live without a thyroid gland – or is it necessary to sustain life?

Can You Live Without a Thyroid Gland?

You can live without a thyroid gland, but you won’t survive very long without the hormones this gland produces. These hormones, T3 and T4, have an effect on every cell in the body by controlling the rate with which they use energy and oxygen – the body’s metabolic rate. Not surprisingly, people who are deficient in thyroid hormone, a condition called hypothyroidism, gain weight and feel very tired.

Because of the role thyroid hormone plays in brain function, a deficiency of thyroid hormone can cause depression, memory problems, and even psychosis. So important is the role of thyroid hormone in growth and development that if a deficiency occurs early in life it can cause severe mental retardation and serious growth delays.

Even in cases of thyroid hormone deficiency, the body still produces enough thyroid hormone to sustain life. With no thyroid hormone, bodily functions would soon grind to a halt as cells are no longer able to produce energy. Can you live without a thyroid gland? Not for long – unless you replace the missing hormones the thyroid produces.

Some People Do Live Without a Thyroid Gland

Even though the hormones the thyroid produces are essential to life, some people do live without a thyroid gland. Some people have most or all of their thyroid gland removed because of thyroid cancer or due to a severely overactive thyroid gland that doesn’t respond to other treatment. A very small percentage of people are born without a thyroid gland. Fortunately, the missing thyroid hormone can be replaced with synthetic thyroid hormone. People taking synthetic thyroid hormone can lead a normal life, although it’s important to keep their thyroid hormone levels regulated by checking blood levels regularly.

Can You Live Without a Thyroid?

Yes, but only if you replace the missing thyroid hormones. These hormones are necessary for human life.

References:

Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.

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