5 Different Hyperthyroid Treatment Options

Published September 16th 2011

When someone is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease, there are a number of different treatment options which are available.  Different endocrinologists will recommend different treatments, and of course it is up to you to decide which treatment method is the best for you.  The goal of this article is to present five different hyperthyroid treatment options, and discuss the pros and cons of each of them so you can make an informed decision.

Hyperthyroid Treatment Option #1: Antithyroid Medication. This is one of the most common treatment methods recommended to people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease.  Methimazole and PTU are the two most commonly recommended prescription drugs.

Pros: The benefits of antithyroid medication is that they don’t do any permanent damage to the thyroid gland.  Some people will also go into a state of remission when taking the antithyroid drugs.

Cons: Antithyroid medication does nothing for the actual cause of the hyperthyroid condition.  All it does is manage the hyperthyroid symptoms, which no doubt is very important.  And while some people do go into a state of remission, many people don’t.  Plus, many who do go into remission eventually relapse.  There are also some rare side effects of these drugs, which is the case with many other prescription medications.

Hyperthyroid Treatment Option #2: Radioactive Iodine. This is the number one treatment recommendation in the United States.  While some people do need to receive RAI, in most cases it should be a last resort.

Pros: The advantage of radioactive iodine is that in most cases it will eliminate the hyperthyroid symptoms permanently.

Cons: There are many disadvantages of receiving radioactive iodine treatment.  Just as is the case with antithyroid medication, radioactive iodine does nothing for the actual cause of the disorder.  For example, with regards to Graves’ Disease, which involves a compromised immune system, obliterating the thyroid gland will do absolutely nothing for the immune system component.  Similarly, for someone who has weak adrenal glands, RAI won’t do anything to address this problem either.

Of course a big disadvantage of radioactive iodine is that in most cases it will make the person permanently hypothyroid, which means they will need to take synthetic or natural thyroid hormone for the rest of their life.  Once again, for some people RAI might be necessary, but many people with minimal or no symptoms are told to receive radioactive iodine, and don’t realize the consequences.  They are told that it’s the best option, and that their hypothyroidism can be managed easily with medication.  But this isn’t always the case, as some people don’t respond well after receiving RAI, and some have a difficult time managing their hypothyroid symptoms.

Hyperthyroid Treatment Option #3: Thyroid Surgery. Fortunately, surgery of the thyroid gland is not frequently recommended as a first line of treatment.  And just as is the case with radioactive iodine, this aggressive treatment method is sometimes necessary, but should only be used in an emergency, or as a last resort.

Pros: For someone who has thyroid nodules which is malignant, or causing an obstruction, then thyroid surgery is usually a good option.  When performed by an experienced surgeon, complications are rare.

Cons: Even though complications are rare, they do happen.  So there is always the potential for damage to the surrounding structures.  This is yet another reason why surgery should not be performed unless absolutely necessary. Another disadvantage is that the person is likely to become hypothyroid.  With a complete thyroidectomy this is obviously going to happen, but it’s also common with a partial thyroidectomy as well.  And just as is the case with antithyroid drugs and RAI, thyroid surgery usually won’t get to the cause of the problem.  So for example, if someone has a thyroid nodule, removing the thyroid gland will probably help with the symptoms, but it won’t do anything for what actually caused the thyroid nodule to develop in the first place.  Once again, there are cases when surgery is necessary.  But getting back to thyroid nodules, there are some people who are told to receive surgery for thyroid nodules despite not having a malignancy, severe symptoms, or any other complications.

Hyperthyroid Treatment Option #4: Natural Hyperthyroid Treatment Methods. Many people are turning towards natural treatment methods to get to the underlying cause of their condition.  Although not everyone with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease can be helped naturally, many people can benefit from following a natural treatment protocol.

Pros: Natural hyperthyroid treatment methods get to the underlying cause of the problem. Keep in mind that the goal isn’t just to manage the symptoms naturally, but to get to the root cause of the disorder.  This is usually accomplished through a combination of lifestyle factors and certain nutritional supplements and herbs.  In most cases the malfunctioning thyroid gland isn’t the actual cause of the disorder.  As a result, the goal is to find the cause of the condition, and then do what’s necessary to correct the cause.

So the main benefit is that someone who follows a natural treatment protocol can have their health restored back to normal, and not have their thyroid gland obliterated through RAI, or take prescription medication for a prolonged period of time.  Plus, following such a protocol won’t only benefit their thyroid health, but will help with their overall health as well, and can also help to prevent future conditions from developing.

Cons: Not everyone will respond to a natural treatment protocol.  While most people will benefit, some people will follow a natural treatment protocol with little or no results.  Of course you definitely want to consult with a holistic doctor who focuses on endocrine disorders, as this will greatly increase the likelihood of receiving great results.  But even when this is the case, not everyone will have their health restored naturally.

Another disadvantage is that natural treament methods aren’t ideal for most emergency situations.  For example, if someone has an extremely high pulse rate and severe palpitations, it might be best for the person to manage their symptoms with a beta blocker and/or antithyroid medication, at least on a temporary basis.  The reason for this is because it usually takes some time for natural treatment methods to kick in.

Hyperthyroid Treatment Option #5: No Treatment. Not receiving any treatment is of course another option, although it’s not one that I would recommend.  Of course someone with subliclinical hyperthyroidism who has minimal symptoms might not feel the need to do anything.  While I agree that RAI or surgery is extreme for someone with minimal symptoms, and even antithyroid drugs may be unecessary if the person is asymptomatic, it still is important to address the cause of the condition.  And so in my biased opinion, someone with hyperthyroidism who has minimal or no symptoms should still try to get to the underlying cause so that it doesn’t worsen over time.

So these are the five different hyperthyroid treatment options people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease have to choose from.  Sometimes it’s not easy to decide which treatment option is for you.  And in many cases your medical doctor will give their preferred treatment option, but this might not be the best option for you.  You might decide to seek the opinions of multiple medical doctors, but ultimately it is up to you to choose which hyperthyroid treatment option will fit you the best.