Informing & Supporting Thyroid Patients Since 1985

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Thyroid Emergencies with Medication and Surgery

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Find medical help at once if:

You are hyperthyroid and:

  • You are taking antithyroid drugs such as PTU, Tapazole®, Carbimazole (in Europe), and get a sore throat, fever, chills, or other signs of infection. You need an immediate white blood cell count to see if your medication has damaged or destroyed your bacteria-fighting neutrophils. A white blood cell count needs to be done before you take another antithyroid pill.
  • Your skin becomes yellow (jaundice), or you develop new arthritis for no apparent reason, or you develop hives. Any one of these could also be a sign of allergy to your antithyroid drug. Don't take another pill until you are seen by your doctor or a physician in an emergency room for evaluation.
  • You develop a sudden rapid beating of your heart. In hyperthyroidism, high thyroid hormone levels may trigger a change in heart rhythm just as it did for President George Bush one day while he was jogging. You need to have an electrocardiogram and a medical evaluation to find out what your problem is. Very possibly the rhythm problem can be controlled with medication, but only a doctor can decide.
  • You develop new eye problems. When the entire thyroid gets overactive (Graves' disease) there's also a small risk for serious eye problems. It is a medical emergency if you develop double vision, sudden loss of vision, or a pain in your eye that could be a scratch on your cornea. All of these need an immediate evaluation by an eye specialist.

You have recently had thyroid surgery and experience these complications:

  • If you begin to experience tingling or twitching it could be that your calcium is too low. Sometimes the surgery interferes with blood supply to your parathyroid gland. Call your doctor's office immediately and head for an emergency room for a check of your blood calcium level.
  • Other possible complications, though rare, include a sudden swelling in the wound area which could signal bleeding. Consider this an emergency and call your physician at once or go to nearest hospital emergency area.
  • Wound infections also should be dealt with promptly. If you develop new swelling, redness, or drainage in the area of your thyroid operation, call the surgeon's office and be sure you are seen that day.
  • A sudden pain in the front of your neck accompanied by the abrupt appearance of a lump may mean that you have had bleeding into a thyroid cyst or nodule. Although the swelling usually stops by itself, see a doctor that day for evaluation and any necessary treatment.