Hyperthyroidism, or the over-activity of the thyroid gland, affects about 1% of the entire US population. The thyroid overproduces thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which, in turn, speed up important bodily processes and functions. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include nervousness, fatigue, heat intolerance, rapid and irregular heartbeat, weight loss, mood swings, and goiter. Women are about 3 times more likely to have this disease than men.
There are a number of factors for deciding which treatment to go with in each case of hyperthyroidism.
Among these considerations are the patient’s age, the cause of hyperthyroidism, how much thyroid hormones the body is producing, and other existing medical conditions.
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The doctor may recommend one or a combination of the following for hyperthyroidism treatment.
The patient may opt to take anti-thyroid medication to regulate the amount of hormones produced by the thyroid and to alleviate the symptoms brought about by these excess hormones. After about twelve weeks of continuous intake, the patient will begin to observe the diminishing symptoms of hyperthyroidism. The treatment lasts for more than a year, after which the dose is gradually tapered off. In the US, anti-thyroid medications refer to propylthiouracil (PTU) and methimazole. This treatment is usually recommended to patients who have mild hyperthyroidism.
Aside from anti-thyroid medicine, the doctor may prescribe beta blockers. Beta blockers such as propranolol or metoprolol relieve hyperthyroidism symptoms such as nervousness, rapid heartbeat, and tremors in a matter of hours. Beta blockers do not stop thyroid hormone production.
Another common and effective treatment for hyperthyroidism is radioactive iodine therapy. This treatment aims to destroy the overactive thyroid and permanently treat the symptoms that come with the overproduction of thyroid hormones. Once ingested, the radioactive iodine is absorbed by the thyroid and used to make thyroid hormones. The destruction of the thyroid renders the patient unable to produce their own thyroid hormones. This condition, called hypothyroidism, is easier to treat than an overactive thyroid. The patient then has to undergo thyroid hormone replacement therapy and take thyroxine every day to make up for the lack of natural thyroid hormones in the body.
The last and least common treatment for hyperthyroidism is thyroid surgery. This procedure, also called thyroidectomy, is an option for pregnant women with hyperthyroidism, those who are allergic to anti-thyroid medication, and those who cannot have radioactive iodine therapy for one reason or another. Before the surgery, the patient may have to take anti-thyroid medicine to bring down the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Depending on each case, thyroidectomy can mean the partial or total removal of the thyroid. Risks involve damage to the vocal cords and parathyroid glands that control the level of calcium in the blood. Just like with radioactive therapy, total thyroidectomy will require the patient to undergo hormone replacement therapy to supply the body with healthy levels of thyroid hormones.
Each case of hyperthyroidism is different and requires the immediate attention of a medical practitioner. Talk to your doctor today and discuss which treatment is best suited for your case.