Treatment for Graves' Disease
If you have Graves' disease, several possible treatment options are available, including medication, surgery, and radioiodine therapy. However, what your healthcare provider ultimately recommends will depend on several factors, such as how severe your symptoms are. It's important to note, too, that weight gain frequently occurs after treatment -- if this concerns you, discuss the matter with your doctor.
How Is Graves' Disease Treated?Graves' disease can affect the thyroid gland, eyes, and, less commonly, the skin. Before recommending a particular treatment plan, healthcare providers will consider:
- What areas are affected
- How severe the symptoms are
- How old the person is
- What other conditions that person might have, such as heart disease or pregnancy.
Treating an Overactive ThyroidThe goal of treatment for hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease is to return thyroid hormone levels to normal. This can prevent long-term complications and ease uncomfortable symptoms.
The three treatment options include:
- Radioiodine therapy
The two main types of drugs used to treat Graves' disease are beta blockers and antithyroid medicines.
Beta blocker medicines are used to decrease symptoms until other treatments take effect. They do not affect thyroid hormone levels. Beta blockers, such as atenolol (Tenormin®), act quickly to relieve many of the symptoms of Graves' disease, such as tremors, heat intolerance, rapid heartbeat, and nervousness. Beta blockers act by blocking the effects of thyroid hormone on the body, but they do not stop thyroid hormone production.
Healthcare providers prescribe antithyroid medicines, such as Tapazole® and propylthiouracil (PTU), to decrease the amount of thyroid hormone the body makes. Most people start to feel better after a couple of weeks on antithyroid medicines. The average treatment time for these medications is about one to two years. Up to 30 percent of people have remission following treatment.
Some people can relapse years later, however, which is why healthcare providers consider radioactive therapy and surgery more permanent options.