What are the treatment options for Graves’ disease?
There are several treatment options for Graves’ disease, including:
- Anti-thyroid medications: These drugs reduce the production of thyroid hormones by blocking the action of the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor.
- Beta blockers: These drugs can be used to control symptoms of hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland), such as palpitations and tremors, while other treatments take effect.
- Steroids: In severe cases, corticosteroids may be used to reduce inflammation and swelling in the thyroid gland whilst the other medications start working.
Radioactive iodine is a common treatment for Graves’ disease. The treatment involves taking a single oral dose of radioactive iodine, which is absorbed by the thyroid gland. The radiation destroys the thyroid tissue and decreases the production of thyroid hormones. This can lead to hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) which is typically treated with daily hormone replacement therapy.
The radioactive iodine treatment is usually an outpatient procedure, and most people can return to their normal activities immediately after taking the radioactive iodine. Side effects may include dry mouth, metallic taste, and temporary low energy levels, but these usually go away within a few days. It is important to avoid close contact with pregnant women, young children, and women who are breastfeeding for a period of time after the treatment to minimize their exposure to the radioactive material.
More than one treatment may be needed to completely treat the Graves’ disease.
The entire thyroid gland may be removed surgically. This is usually reserved for cases where other treatments are not effective, not well-tolerated, not appropriate or a definitive option is desired. Benefits of surgery include:
- Quick control of hyperthyroidism: Surgery can quickly and effectively bring the symptoms of hyperthyroidism under control, particularly if a large portion of the gland is removed.
- Avoidance of long-term medication: Some patients may not be able to tolerate or may not respond to anti-thyroid medications or radioactive iodine, and in such cases, surgery may be a more viable option.
- Reduced risk of recurrence: After surgery, the risk of recurrence of Graves’ disease is low, whereas it is relatively high with other treatments.
- Better quality of life: By bringing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism under control, surgery can improve the overall quality of life for patients with Graves’ disease.
It’s important to note that while surgery can be effective, it is also associated with certain risks and potential complications.
The choice of treatment will depend on the individual patient and the severity of their condition, and all options should be discussed with your specialist.