Treating Thyroid Problems
Your doctor has diagnosed a thyroid problem and will work with you to create a treatment plan. Even if you don't have symptoms, getting proper care is important. Following are the most common types of thyroid disorders and their treatments.
Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid. There is no cure for this condition. But treatment can relieve most or all of your symptoms caused by the low thyroid hormone levels. Treatment for hypothyroidism involves taking thyroid hormone pills daily.
- Thyroid hormone pills replace the hormone your thyroid doesn't make. You will likely need to take a daily pill for the rest of your life. Over time, your dosage may be adjusted. The medication has minimal side effects if the dosage is correct. However, if the dosage is too high, you may have symptoms of an overactive thyroid (such as nervousness, irritability, heart racing, tremors, difficulty sleeping, or brittle hair). If the dosage is too low, you may have symptoms of an underactive thyroid (such as dry skin, fatigue, loss of energy, or memory problems). Be sure to tell your health care provider if you notice any symptoms of thyroid problems.
- Your doctor will adjust your dose to achieve the right hormone levels. To be sure the thyroid hormone works properly, take the thyroid hormone pill on an empty stomach without other medications.
Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid. The main treatments for hyperthyroidism may be used alone or in combination with beta-blockers (drugs that can reduce symptoms caused by too much thyroid hormone).
- Anti-thyroid medication can reduce the amount of thyroid hormone made by your thyroid gland. Reactions from this medication are rare, but may include a dangerous decline in white blood cells, and liver damage. Talk with your doctor for more information. If you have a fever or sore throat while taking this medicine, talk with your doctor right away.
- Radioactive iodine ablation is the most common treatment for hyperthyroidism. It involves taking a pill or liquid dose of radioactive iodine. This treatment destroys the thyroid cells that are making too much hormone. Radioiodine ablation may result in the need for daily thyroid hormone pills.
- Surgery can be an effective treatment for hyperthyroidism. It involves removing part or all of your thyroid gland. After surgery, you may need to take daily thyroid hormone pills.
In some instances, excessive thyroid hormone due to certain conditions can be controlled by beta-blockers alone.
If you have benign nodules, you may not need treatment right away. Instead, your health care provider may suggest regular exams and ultrasound tests to see if the nodules grow. If treatment is needed, it may include:
- Surgery to treat cancerous nodules or benign nodules that are causing symptoms (such as choking, or difficulty swallowing). Surgery involves removing part or all of your thyroid gland. Sometimes surgery to remove cancerous nodules may be followed by radioactive iodine therapy (radioiodine ablation). Afterward, you may need to take daily thyroid hormone pills.
- If a benign thyroid nodule is causing an overactive thyroid, your health care provider may treat it with anti-thyroid medications. If these treatments do not work, then radioiodine ablation or surgery may be needed.
Radioiodine Ablation: Things to Know
This is a very safe treatment. Your health care provider will talk with you about any risks and possible complications. You will likely receive the iodine at the hospital and go home the same day. The risk from the radiation to yourself and others is very small. However, you may need to stay away from other people for several days. It is most important to avoid children and pregnant women during this time.