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Treating Thyroid Problems

Doctor and patient talking, doctor holding tablet.Your healthcare provider 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. These are the most common types of thyroid disorders and their treatments.

Treating hypothyroidism

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 is done with daily thyroid hormone pills. 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.

Your healthcare provider will adjust your dose to achieve the right hormone levels. Take the thyroid hormone pill on an empty stomach, without other medicines. This is to make sure it works as it should.

Over time, your dose may be adjusted. The medicine has minimal side effects if the dosage is correct. But if the dosage is too high, you may have symptoms of an overactive thyroid. These include nervousness, irritability, fast heartbeat, tremors, trouble sleeping, and brittle hair. If the dosage is too low, you may have symptoms of an underactive thyroid. These include dry skin, low energy, sleepiness, and memory problems. Tell your healthcare provider if you notice any symptoms of thyroid problems.

Treating hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid. The treatments include:

  • Anti-thyroid medicine. This can reduce the amount of thyroid hormone made by your thyroid gland. Reactions from this medicine are rare. But in some cases, it can cause a dangerous drop in white blood cells, and liver damage. Talk with your healthcare provider for more information. If you have a fever or sore throat while taking this medicine, tell your healthcare provider right away.

  • Radioactive iodine ablation. This is the most common treatment for hyperthyroidism. It’s done by taking a pill or liquid dose of radioactive iodine. This treatment destroys the thyroid cells that are making too much hormone. You may need daily thyroid hormone pills after this treatment.

  • Surgery. This is done by removing part or all of your thyroid gland. After surgery, you may need to take daily thyroid hormone pills.

  • Beta-blockers. The treatments above may be used alone or with beta-blockers. These are medicines that can reduce symptoms caused by too much thyroid hormone. In some case, symptoms from too much thyroid hormone can be controlled by beta-blockers alone.

Treating nodules

If you have benign nodules, you may not need treatment right away. Instead, your healthcare provider may advise regular exams and ultrasound tests to see if the nodules grow. If treatment is needed, it may include:

  • Anti-thyroid medicine. If a benign thyroid nodule is causing an overactive thyroid, your healthcare provider may first treat it with anti-thyroid medicine. If this doesn’t work, you may need one of the below treatments.

  • Radioactive iodine ablation. This is the most common treatment for hyperthyroidism. It’s done by taking a pill or liquid dose of radioactive iodine. This treatment destroys the thyroid cells that are making too much hormone. You may need daily thyroid hormone pills after this treatment.

  • Surgery. This may be done to treat nodules that are causing symptoms, such as choking, or trouble swallowing. Surgery is done by removing part or all of your thyroid gland. Surgery to remove cancerous nodules may be followed by radioiodine iodine ablation. After surgery, you may need to take daily thyroid hormone pills.

If you have radioactive iodine ablation

Even though it uses tiny amounts of radiation, radioactive iodine ablation is a safe treatment. Your healthcare 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.

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