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Treatment for Overactive Thyroid

There is no single treatment that is appropriate for all people with overactive thyroid. However, many options are available to help bring thyroid hormone levels back to normal -- the one that is right for you will depend on your age, the severity of your symptoms, and other factors. Surgery, medication, and radioiodine therapy are the main options for hyperthyroidism treatment.

How Is Overactive Thyroid Treated?

The goal of treatment for overactive thyroid is to return thyroid hormone levels to normal. This can prevent long-term complications and ease uncomfortable symptoms.
The three treatment options for an overactive thyroid include:
  • Medications
  • Radioiodine therapy
  • Surgery.
Before recommending a particular treatment plan, healthcare providers will consider the cause of hyperthyroidism, how severe the symptoms are, how old the person is, and what other conditions they might have, such as heart disease or pregnancy.

Medications Used to Treat Overactive Thyroid

The two main types of medicines used for overactive thyroid treatment are antithyroid medicines and beta blockers.
Antithyroid Medicines
Antithyroid drugs decrease the amount of thyroid hormone the body makes. These medications block the way the thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormone.
Two examples are methimazole (Tapazole®) and propylthiouracil (PTU). Methimazole is often preferred because it is taken once a day versus three times a day for propylthiouracil. However, pregnant women should not take methimazole. This drug can cause scalp problems in infants whose mothers take it during pregnancy. Women who are breastfeeding should take only very small doses of either drug.
Most people start to feel better after a couple of weeks on the antithyroid medicines. It can take several weeks or months for the thyroid hormone levels to move into the normal range.
The average treatment time for antithyroid medicines is about one to two years. About 30 percent of people have their symptoms completely disappear following treatment. Some people can relapse years later; this is one reason why healthcare providers consider radioactive therapy and surgery to be more permanent treatment options for an overactive thyroid.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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