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What are treatment options for thyroid disorders?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

If you have an underactive or overactive thyroid, you will likely need to take thyroid hormones to regulate its function. Radioactive iodine is another medication option to treat some thyroid disorders. Radioactive iodine works by decreasing the size of a goiter or thyroid cancer. If you have a large goiter that is causing difficulty breathing or swallowing, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Treatment differs based on the type of thyroid dysfunction. Patients with hypothyroidism require thyroid replacement therapy to supply the thyroid hormone that the body is not able to produce.

The treatment of hyperthyroidism is based on decreasing production of thyroid hormones. In most instances, medications are administered to inhibit both thyroid gland production and secretion of thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Some patients may temporarily require other medications to counteract the effects of excess thyroid hormone throughout the body until such time as the quantities of thyroid hormone have been reduced. Once the source of increased thyroid hormone production is found, treatment with radioactive iodine will be used to destroy the site of overproduction.

There are alternative over-the-counter treatments for thyroid disorders that claim to mimic thyroid hormone function. Generally these supplements are not recommended for thyroid replacement because they are not as regulated as the medications that are the standard of care. This can result in people being undertreated or overtreated for their thyroid disorders.

Full thyroid removal can be recommended for the following conditions: 

  • hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid
  • goiter, or enlarged thyroid, that is causing symptoms
  • nodules, or thyroid growths, that are suspicious for cancer

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.