Hyperthyroidism is primarily treated with antithyroid medications that suppress the production of thyroid hormones. Sometimes, beta-blockers to manage symptoms are also prescribed.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition that causes your thyroid gland to overproduce thyroid hormones, leading to a range of symptoms including:
- heat intolerance
- heart palpitations
The primary medications used to treat hyperthyroidism are called antithyroid medications. These medications stop the thyroid from using iodine to make thyroid hormones. Some people also take beta-blockers to manage some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Antithyroid medications can be very effective. Side effects are rare, and some people are able to achieve long-term remission after 12–18 months of medication use.
Fast facts about hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland overproduces thyroid hormones. Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your throat, and thyroid hormones are vital to regulate your metabolism, heart rate, and more.
Hyperthyroidism can affect anyone at any age. About
Hyperthyroidism is most commonly caused by an autoimmune condition called
A rare form of hyperthyroidism is known as “
Hyperthyroidism is commonly treated with antithyroid medications that work by reducing the amount of thyroid hormone produced. There are two primary hyperthyroidism medications approved for use in the United States: methimazole (Tapazole) and propylthiouracil (Propycil).
Sometimes, beta-blockers are also prescribed. These medications do not treat the overproduction of thyroid hormones, but they can treat some symptoms of hyperthyroidism. You can read more about hyperthyroidism medications below.
Methimazole (Tapazole) is typically the first option for hyperthyroidism treatment. It prevents your thyroid from absorbing iodine and using it to produce thyroid hormones.
For many people, methimazole is known to work fast without side effects. Methimazole is normally taken once a day.
In certain circumstances, depending on the severity of the hyperthyroidism, methimazole may be taken
Propylthiouracil (Propycil) is another medication that stops your thyroid gland from absorbing and using iodine. It can also stop your thyroid from converting thyroid hormones.
Typically, propylthiouracil is taken 2 or 3 times a day. This medication has a
Hyperthyroidism can affect your heart and can lead to symptoms such as:
Beta-blockers won’t help your body make less thyroid hormone, but they can help alleviate these symptoms.
Typically, the following beta-blockers are prescribed for hyperthyroidism symptoms:
- Propranolol (typically the preferred beta-blocker for hyperthyroidism)
- nadolol (Corgard)
- metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL)
Radioactive iodine therapy
Radioactive iodine therapy is another potential treatment option for hyperthyroidism. It has
The radioactive iodine targets and destroys thyroid cells but does not affect other parts of your body. Approximately two-thirds of people who have radioactive iodine therapy will develop hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). These people will need to take synthetic thyroxine to replace the hormones their thyroid is no longer able to produce.
Side effects of antithyroid medications are rare but can occur. Some people are allergic to antithyroid medications and can experience fever, rashes, hives, and pain. Additionally, both propylthiouracil (Propycil) and methimazole (Tapazole) can cause liver damage.
This is more common with propylthiouracil (Propycil) and is one of the reasons that methimazole (Tapazole) is typically the preferred hyperthyroidism medication. However, methimazole is
It can take time to see relief from hyperthyroidism symptoms. The exact timeline can depend on the medication you take, your dose, and how you respond to treatment. Additionally, some symptoms might resolve faster than others.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- heat intolerance
- heart palpitations
- difficulty sleeping
- mood swings
- unintentional weight loss
- increased appetite
- a visibly swollen thyroid gland
- changes to your bowel movements
- changes to your skin
- changes to your hair
As your medication begins to work, your symptoms might not all resolve at the same speed. For instance, you might feel an increase in energy and your appetite returning to normal but still feel like your heart is racing even when you’re at rest.
Over the first several months of your treatment, you’ll likely start to see relief for all your symptoms. If you don’t, talk with your doctor.
Often, treatment with antithyroid medication lasts 12–18 months. You’ll generally have bloodwork at about this time. If your blood shows that your thyroid levels are in the typical range, and if your symptoms are resolved, your doctor might slowly decrease your dose. You might even be able to stop taking your medication.
Some people can achieve long-term remission after 12–18 months of antithyroid medication, but others need to stay on medication to manage their condition. Even if you achieve remission, you’ll likely continue to need your thyroid hormone levels checked regularly.
Hyperthyroidism can come back years later and can be triggered by pregnancy and other medical events. Often, people with a history of hyperthyroidism who lowered their dosage or even completely stopped taking medication will need to readjust or restart medication during an event such as pregnancy.
Hyperthyroidism medications are called antithyroid medications. They work to suppress how much thyroid hormone your thyroid makes.
There are currently two antithyroid medications approved in the United States: methimazole (Tapazole) and propylthiouracil (Propycil). These medications are very similar, although methimazole (Tapazole) is typically preferred and tried first.
Beta-blockers are also often used in hyperthyroidism treatment. These medications don’t lower thyroid hormone levels, but they do help manage symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Antithyroid medications aren’t a long-term solution for everyone. However, some people can achieve remission after 12–18 months of treatment with these medications. Side effects, including liver damage, are possible but rare.