Thyroid Disease (cont.)

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What is the treatment for thyroid disease?

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Depending on specific aspects of the disease, medications, surgery, or radioactive therapy may all be treatments for thyroid disease.


Medications may be used to treat hyperthyroidism in order to reduce production of thyroid hormone, inhibit its release from the gland, and/or to treat signs and symptoms (such as a rapid heart beat). In hypothyroidism, synthetic thyroid hormone is given daily to replace the missing thyroid hormone. Occasionally, in the case of a large goiter, thyroid hormone replacement may be given in small doses in an attempt to shrink the gland size. Be aware that "natural" thyroid compounds exist on the market. These formulations have variable efficacy. All thyroid hormone treatment should be monitored by a licensed health care professional. Steroids and other anti-inflammatory medications, such as NSAIDs, may also be used to reduce inflammation of affected thyroid glands.


Surgery is the treatment of choice when the thyroid gland is compressing the airway and resulting in difficult breathing or swallowing. In addition, surgery can remove an overactive nodule, remove a disfiguring goiter, or address suspected cancer. Depending on the indication for the surgery, part of a lobe, a whole lobe, or the whole thyroid (perhaps with surrounding tissue) may be removed. When the entire thyroid gland is removed, medical replacement with synthetic thyroid hormone is required.

Radioactive ablation

When hyperthyroidism responds inadequately to medications, radioactive ablation should be considered next. In contrast to the diagnostic scans described above, the iodine in this approach is labeled with a tracer that destroys the thyroid tissue. Ablation can treat hyperthyroidism unresponsive to medications, particularly Graves' disease. This form of therapy is also used in combination with surgery to treat certain thyroid cancers.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/7/2013

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