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Hyperthyroidism - Treatment Overview

There are three treatments for hyperthyroidism. Antithyroid medicine and radioactive iodine are the ones doctors use most often. In rare cases, surgery may be done. Hyperthyroidism can lead to more serious problems. So even if your symptoms are not bothering you, you still need treatment.

The kind of treatment you have depends on your age, what is causing your hyperthyroidism, how much thyroid hormone your body is making, and other medical conditions you may have. Each kind of treatment has benefits and risks. Discuss the benefits and risks of each kind of treatment with your doctor. For some people, more than one kind of treatment may be needed.

Initial treatment

Initial treatment for hyperthyroidism usually is antithyroid medicine or radioactive iodine therapy. If you have a lot of symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you take antithyroid medicine first to help you feel better. Then you can decide whether to have radioactive iodine therapy.

  • Antithyroid medicines work best if you have mild hyperthyroidism, if this is the first time you are being treated for Graves' disease, if you are younger than 50, or if your thyroid gland is only swollen a little bit (small goiter).
  • Radioactive iodine is often recommended if you have Graves' disease and are older than 50, or if you have thyroid nodules (toxic multinodular goiter) that are releasing too much thyroid hormone. Radioactive iodine is not used if:
    • You are pregnant or you want to become pregnant within 6 months of treatment.
    • You are breast-feeding.
    • You have thyroiditis or another kind of hyperthyroidism that is often temporary.
dplink.gif Hyperthyroidism: Should I Use Antithyroid Medicine or Radioactive Iodine?

If you have symptoms such as a fast heartbeat, tremors, sweating, nervousness, or dry eyes, you may take some additional medicines to treat those symptoms.

Surgery is not usually part of initial treatment. You may need surgery if your thyroid gland is so big that you have a hard time swallowing or breathing. Or you may need surgery if a single large thyroid nodule is releasing too much thyroid hormone.

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