Graves’ Disease Treatment Options
by Svetla Bankova
Graves Disease treatment options vary in their effectiveness, long term results and efficiency. So far, the medicine even after 100 years has not advanced a lot and acknowledges only 3 types of treatment. Please, consider the text below only as additional information, not as a treatment plan. The purpose of this is to educate you, but your doctor and you need to make the decision.
1. Medication: In the United States and many other countries two main brands of anti-thyroid medication are used: Methimazole and Propylthioyracil (PTU). The function of both antithyroid drugs is similar: to adjust the levels of the two hormones produced by the thyroid, free thyroxine (FT4) and free triiodothyronine (FT3), and to increase thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is the third important thyroid hormone. For their normal ranges, please, refer to Thyroid Test Results.
The philosophy behind the antithyroid drug treatment is that when the organism gets adjusted to the correct thyroid levels with the help of medication, soon it can do it on its own and the medication can be gradually reduced until no longer needed. Easy said than done. That’s why this is the slowest known therapy as in many cases the drug dosage should be constantly adjusted until the desired results are achieved. The antithyroid drug therapy is chosen by some doctors as a primary choice of treatment and some others consider it as preparation of the patient for a consequent RAI treatment. You can watch the video below, or just read further:
Methimazole. It is used to manage hyperthyroidism associated with Graves’ disease. Methimazole is generally well-tolerated with side effects occurring in 3 out of every 100 patients. The most common side effects are related to the skin and include rash, itching, hives, abnormal hair loss, and skin pigmentation. If you experience any of these side effects, please, consult your physician immediately. They usually appear if the doze is not correct so this should be adjusted as soon as possible. While many people see improvement in their FT4 levels, TSH remains unchanged for a prolonged period of time.
Propylthyoracil (PTU) is the other antithyroid drug prescribed as a Graves’ Disease treatment option. It is considered safer and usually is better tolerated by people, to my personal observation. It is administered to pregnant women suffering from Graves’ Disease more often as it is considered harmless for the baby and causes minimum birth defects.
The main concern of the doctors here is that the patient may relapse later. Yes, I agree, however it may or may not happen.
2.Thyroidectomy is the second Graves’ disease treatment option. This is a surgical removal of the thyroid gland, and is the oldest known treatment option for Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism. Surgery is also an option for people who have a very large goiter, and those who are allergic to, or who may develop severe side effects from the antithyroid drug used to treat hyperthyroidism. Thyroidectomy could be partial or total, depending on the portion of thyroid to be removed. Total thyroidectomy, along with many other side effects will result in permanent hypothyroidism, i.e the patients need to take thyroid medication for hypothyroidism for the rest of their lives. More about Thyroidectomy, check that link.
3. Radioactive Iodine Treatment (RAI). This is the option most doctors will recommend even though I consider it the most dangerous. It has many side effects as well, and similarly to thyroidectomy will result in permanent hypothyroidism. Thyroid Eye Disease in most of the cases will not improve, but will get worse, as noted in many researches on the subject. Why the doctors prefer to ignore that information or even not disclose it to the patients still remains a mystery to me. More about RAI Treatment, click on the link.
4. Alternative natural treatments or a combination of antithyroid drug therapy and holistic methods. This I consider the most effective and harmless, but probably is the longest therapy. The Natural treatment system for Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism will involve change of diet, supplements, herbs, physical exercises, yoga, meditation, to name a few.
Life style changes and stress management are also necessary. It is a total makeover and works not only on the symptoms but on the causes of Graves’ disease and Hyperthyroidism as well. It’s a life changing experience, not just masking the symptoms or destroying vital parts of the body system like the thyroid gland. Both, antithyroid drug therapy and holistic methods can work together for faster results and they can be seen literally in a few weeks.
5. No treatment, left untreated. This should never happen. Graves’ disease and Hyperthyroidism are dangerous autoimmune diseases which, if left untreated may cause a Thyroid Storm, a condition that may lead to death.