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What medications are available for Graves' disease?

Doctors may prescribe a drug called a beta blocker to reduce symptoms until other treatments take effect. This drug acts by blocking the effects of thyroid hormone on the body but does not stop thyroid hormone production.

Two antithyroid drugs-methimazole and propylthiouracil (PTU)-interfere with the way the thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. Doctors sometimes use antithyroid drugs as the only treatment for Graves' disease. More often, antithyroid drugs are used to pretreat patients older than 60 years or those who have other health problems before beginning radioiodine therapy or as a supplemental treatment after radioiodine therapy.

Because pregnant and breast-feeding women cannot receive radioiodine therapy, they are usually treated with an antithyroid drug instead. Pregnant women should not take methimazole and should be monitored if they take PTU. Women who are breast-feeding should take the smallest dose necessary of either drug.

Antithyroid drugs can cause side effects in some people. Allergic reactions such as rashes and itching are the most common side effects. Rarely, antithyroid drugs cause liver failure or a decrease in the number of white blood cells, which can lower resistance to infection.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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