In order to diagnose hyperthyroidism you doctor will perform a number of tests checking for a rapid pulse, tremor and blood tests to assess your thyroid function. In addition you may also be advised to have a radioactive-iodine uptake test and thyroid scan to help determine whether the entire thyroid gland is overactive or if just a portion of the gland is overactive.
Once a diagnosis is made there are a number of conventional Graves disease treatment options that you may be offered.
1. Drug Therapy
In graves disease treatment regimes drugs are used primarily to inhibit production of thyroid hormone or provide symptomatic relief. The most popular drugs in this regard are methimazole (Tapazole) or propylthiouracil (PTU) which act to prevent the thyroid from over-manufacturing the thyroid hormone. As is common with many conventional drugs there are often side effects associated with taking these treatments. The most likley side effects you may suffer with these medications are drowsiness and minor lethargy; although in rare cases, they can cause agranulocytosis, a blood disease.
A second group of drugs called beta-blockers (propranolol) are used to help the symptoms of Graves disease such as rapid heart rate, tremor, sweating and anxiety.
2. Radioactive Iodine Therapy
If conventional graves disease treatment drugs fail then the next option could be radioactive iodine therapy. You will be given a capsule or a glass of water containing radioactive iodine. Once you have swallowed this mixture the “radioiodine” is quickly absorbed by the overactive thyroid cells which should be destroyed by the radiation, hence less thyroid hormone is produced.
Although the radioactivity disappears from you body in days, you should not undergo this treatment if you are pregnant as it can adversley affect a developing fetus.
Clearly surgery is the last resort when it comes to graves disease treatment. Under this surgical procedure part or more often all of the thyroid is removed. If it is only a single nodule that is over-producing the hormone then the surgeon will only remove this part of the gland however, if it is the whole gland that is overactive then it will be totally removed.
Surgery is the preferred option for those suffering from a large goiter, pregnant women or if there is thought to be a risk of cancer.