Radioactive Iodine Treatment is one of the most popular treatments for Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism in the USA and Canada. The debates whether it is helpful or not, dangerous or not, preferable or not have been going on for decades. Why doctors in other parts of the world are not so happy about this treatment? There are plenty of reasons and I have to personally admit that I am totally against this treatment option- not only for Graves’ Disease but for any disease. And if I am able to make you re-think your decision eventually to go for Radioactive Iodine treatment- I’ll be saving one more thyroid today!
Radioactive iodine (I-131) is given orally (either by pill or liquid) on a one-time basis to abate a hyperactive gland. I-131 is given after routine iodine scans, and uptake of the iodine is determined to confirm hyperthyroidism. The radioactive iodine is picked up by the active cells in the thyroid and destroys them. Since iodine is only picked up by thyroid cells, the destruction is local, and it is considered that there are no widespread side effects with this therapy.
10 Reasons to avoid Radioactive Iodine Treatment (RAI):
1. It is dangerous for breastfeeding and pregnancy. RAI can cause difficulty with future attempts to become pregnant and carry pregnancies to term. RAI is known to affect the ovaries, which is why patients are recommended to avoid becoming pregnancy for at least 6 months after RAI. The 6 months recommendation was increased to at least one year in early 2002. It is not recommended to conceive 8- 12 months after the iodine uptake.
2. It is permanent; it destroys your thyroid gland and there is no way back.
3. Hypothyroidism. Radiation-induced hypothyroidism is more difficult to treat than naturally occurring hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism caused by treatment for hyperthyroidism is known to cause depression and anxiety. In one large Dutch study, “over one third of patients with a full-time job were unable to resume the same work after treatment”.
It appears that many of these patients are in need of psychological support.
5. You may have to take pills for hypothyroidism for the rest of your life.
6. RAI, aka spent nuclear fuel (“nuclear waste”, in other words) is absorbed by other organs and can cause cell death or DNA mutations. RAI is absorbed, in smaller amounts, by other organs besides the thyroid, including breast tissue, the genitals, pancreas, and the gastric mucosa.
7. Studies show an increase in cancers, especially of the thyroid gland and small bowel, after RAI
8. Chance of significant, unhealthy weight gain is increased. Studies show that weight gain is inevitable after radio iodine-induced hypothyroidism
9. Increased risk of developing fibromyalgia like symptoms
10. Salivary and tear duct damage from I-131