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Understanding Graves' Disease -- Diagnosis and Treatment

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What Are the Treatments for Graves' Disease? continued...

At the beginning of the treatment, you will be given a capsule or liquid containing the radioactive iodine. Either way you take it, you should not feel any effects as the substance enters your system. Most of the iodine will gather and remain in your thyroid; excess amounts will be excreted in urine. It is a good idea to drink several extra glasses of water per day for about a week after the treatment to help flush the material out of your body as quickly as possible. To be on the safe side, you should also limit contact with infants, children, and pregnant women for at least seven days after you ingest the iodine.

You probably won't notice any changes for several days after taking the radioactive iodine, but if your thyroid gland feels inflamed and sore, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin can offer some relief. Over the next several months, the thyroid's hormone secretion should gradually begin to drop. During this time you need to see the doctor for periodic checkups to determine how well the treatment is progressing. Chances are good that a single dose of radioactive iodine will be sufficient to correct hyperthyroidism. However, if the condition hasn't improved three months or so after your initial treatment, your practitioner may give you a second dose of iodine. Once the doctor has decided that your Graves' disease is effectively under control, you will still need to have routine checkups to make sure that your thyroid levels remain within the normal range. 

It should be noted that most people become hypothyroid after taking radioactive iodine for Graves' disease. If this occurs, you will have to take thyroid replacement medication for the rest of your life.

Although radioactive iodine treatments are generally safe, they cannot be given to pregnant women because the chemical may destroy the thyroid gland in the fetus. Therefore, you must make sure that you are not pregnant before you take radioactive iodine for Graves' disease. It is best to let several months pass after your last dose of radioactive iodine before becoming pregnant; confirm the length of time you should wait with your doctor. Except during these periods following the treatment, radioactive iodine poses no health risks for women who want to become pregnant, and it will not affect the fertility of either women or men.

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