Treatments for hyperthyroidism can stop the overproduction of thyroid hormones. But you’ll need to take medications to manage your thyroid for the rest of your life.
Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, can be treated and managed in a few different ways. Some treatments may eliminate symptoms completely for some people, but you’ll need to continue following that treatment plan as a lifelong solution.
Other treatments can stop the overactivity by removing your thyroid. This resolves hyperthyroidism, but you’ll need to take medication to make up for the absence of your thyroid and the hormones it produces.
Occasionally, medication can help some people with the autoimmune form of hyperthyroidism achieve periods of remission. During remission, they might be able to stop taking medications and will be symptom-free. However, most people experience a relapse later.
Keep reading to learn about treatment options for hyperthyroidism.
Fast facts about hyperthyroidism
- Hyperthyroidism is a condition that happens when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone.
- Thyroid hormone is important for a variety of major bodily functions, including metabolism and heart rate.
- Anyone can have hyperthyroidism, but the condition is most often diagnosed in women ages 20–40 years.
- In the United States, about
1 out of every 100 peopleages 12 years and older have hyperthyroidism.
There are three primary treatments for hyperthyroidism. The right treatment for depends on the type of hypothyroidism you have, the severity of your symptoms, and how you respond to symptoms.
- Medication: Medications called antithyroid medications stop your thyroid from overproducing hormones. It can take these medications a few months to work. You’ll likely need to adjust the dose a few times to achieve stable thyroid levels.
- Radioactive iodine treatment: Radioactive iodine uses radioactive iodine to destroy cells inside your thyroid gland. This treatment works because the thyroid gland absorbs iodine when you consume it. So, when you take the radioactive iodine as a capsule or liquid, it’s absorbed and contained in your thyroid, destroying those cells without harming the rest of your body.
- Surgery: Sometimes, removing your thyroid gland is the best treatment option. If you have either radioactive iodine treatment or surgery to remove your thyroid gland, you need to take replacement thyroid hormones for the rest of your life.
Can hyperthyroidism go back to normal on its own?
It’s rare for hyperthyroidism to go back to normal on its own, but it can sometimes happen.
For instance, some people develop a condition called postpartum thyroiditis after childbirth. This is a temporary inflammation of the thyroid. It affects a small percentage of people immediately after they give birth.
Typically, this condition leads to hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, and then fades completely. Postpartum thyroiditis resolves for about 80% of people within 12–18 months. However, postpartum thyroiditis can reappear during later pregnancies.
Hyperthyroidism is linked to several conditions. These conditions cause the thyroid to become overactive and produce too much thyroid hormone.
The causes of hyperthyroidism include:
- Graves’ disease: Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition. It’s the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease often runs in families.
- Thyroid nodules: Thyroid nodules are lumps of thyroid tissue. Sometimes, these can produce excess thyroid hormone. They’re more common in people ages 60 years and over.
- Toxic adenoma: A toxic adenoma is a growth that is not cancerous but can produce excess thyroid hormones. Most adenomas are harmless. They don’t produce enough thyroid hormone to cause hyperthyroid hormone, but a small percentage of people do have adenomas, called toxic adenomas, that lead to hyperthyroidism.
- Swelling of your thyroid: When your thyroid swells for any reason, it can lead to the production of excess hormones. Typically, hyperthyroidism causes swelling of the thyroid, but it’s possible for a swollen thyroid to develop first.
- Thyroid cancer: A tumor growth on the thyroid can cause overproduction of thyroid hormone, but this is rare.
- Certain medications: Some medications can lead to the thyroid producing excess thyroid hormone.
No matter the cause, hyperthyroidism has common symptoms. These include:
- a racing heart
- trouble sleeping
- heat sensitivity
- unintentional weight loss
- trembling or shaking
- mood changes
- visible swelling of the thyroid gland in your neck, known as a goiter
Many of these symptoms are linked to many conditions. It’s important to talk with a doctor if you’ve been experiencing them.
A doctor can sometimes diagnose hyperthyroidism after an exam and a blood test. Knowing what’s causing your symptoms is the first step in getting the right treatment.
It’s always best to make a doctor’s appointment if you’ve had any symptoms for more than a week or two, or if you have any symptoms that feel new or unusual.
Most types of hyperthyroidism are long term. Treatment can manage them and maybe even reverse them, but some treatment will almost always still be needed.
For instance, removing your thyroid completely resolves an overactive thyroid, but you’ll need to take replacement thyroid hormones for the rest of your life.
Sometimes, autoimmune hyperthyroidism, such as Graves’ disease, can go into remission with the help of medication, but it typically returns. Treatment usually relieves all symptoms.