Radioactive Iodine treatment is used to destroy thyroid tissue when certain thyroid conditions or diseases are present. If you have thyroid cancer, Graves Disease, Hashitoxicosis, or any thyroid problem causing hyperthyroidism that is not easily controlled with medication, your doctor may recommend Radioactive Iodine treatment.
What is Radioactive Iodine Treatment?
A small dose of Radioactive Iodine (I-131, an isotope of iodine) is given to you as a pill or in liquid form. Once swallowed, the Radioactive Iodine goes into the blood stream through your digestive system and is then absorbed and concentrated by your thyroid. Your thyroid naturally wants to absorb any iodine present in your body. Since your thyroid wants to absorb as much of this radioactive iodine as possible, the rest of your body is exposed to very little radiation.
Once the Radioactive Iodine is absorbed, it will begin destroying your thyroid (and any cancer cells if that is the reason for treatment). Your thyroid levels usually begin to come down in a couple of weeks to a few months, resulting in either normal or low thyroid function. Often the result is low thyroid function, known as hypothyroidism. When this is the case, you will need to take a form of thyroid hormone replacement medication for the rest of your life.
Usually one dose of Radioactive Iodine accomplishes the desired result in treatment, but there are times that a second dose is necessary.
Precautions You May Need to Take
Depending on the amount of Radioactive Iodine given, you may need to take some extra precautions for a short time after treatment. You might be told to not be around pregnant women, babies, and children for a couple of weeks. You may need to have minimal contact with other people during the first week. It is usually recommended that you have no intimate contact with anyone, including kissing. You may also be instructed to sleep in a room by yourself, to use separate bathroom and kitchen items, and to wash your laundry separately.
Regardless of the dose of Radioactive Iodine you are given, there are some precautions that are normally given to everyone. Most of the Radioactive Iodine that was not absorbed will leave your body in the first couple of days after treatment through your urine. Instructions are given to flush the toilet a few times after urinating and to keep the toilet thoroughly clean. You need to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water every time you go to the bathroom. You must also rinse the sink and bathtub after you use them.
Side Effects and Risks
There are possible side effects of Radioactive Iodine Treatment. They include, but are not limited to, dry mouth, metallic taste in your mouth, sore throat, neck pain, nausea or vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, and fatigue. You may notice other side effects. If they are troublesome or severe, be sure to contact you doctor.
The main risks of Radioactive Iodine treatment are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Permanent hypothyroidism can result within weeks of treatment or may not show up for several years. Hypothyroidism is treated by taking a daily dose of thyroid hormone replacement medication for the rest of your life. Temporary hyperthyroidism can result from inflammation of your thyroid gland caused by the Radioactive Iodine treatment. Depending on the severity, it may or may not require treatment with anti-thyroid medication for a short time.
Treatment Requirements for Hashitoxicosis and Graves Disease
I personally have Hashimoto’s with phases of hyperthyroidism called Hashitoxicosis. After my last phase of hyperthyroidism, it was recommended that I get Radioactive Iodine treatment done to destroy my thyroid and stop the autoimmune cycle to phases of hyperthyroidism. In order to get Radioactive Iodine treatment done for Hashimoto’s (or Graves Disease), you must be hyperthyroid. When you are hyperthyroid, your thyroid is functioning faster than normal and quickly absorbs the iodine, protecting the rest of your body from unsafe amounts of radiation exposure. Unfortunately, I had been put on anti-thyroid drugs to control the severity of hyperthyroidism I was experiencing and I quickly went hypothyroid before Radioactive Iodine treatment could be done.
Treatment Requirements After a Thyroidectomy
Since I could not get Radioactive Iodine treatment done to destroy my thyroid, it is now being recommended that I have my thyroid removed with a thyroidectomy and then have Radioactive Iodine treatment done to destroy the small amount of thyroid tissue left after the thyroidectomy. This is also usually the course of treatment done for thyroid cancer.
The dose of Radioactive Iodine after a thyroidectomy is much smaller than for Hashitoxicosis or Graves Disease, making the requirements for treatment much different. After a thyroidectomy, your body will be allowed to go a little hypothyroid. When you are hypothyroid, the remaining thyroid tissue will want to absorb any iodine it can find in an effort to help your body return to normal thyroid function again. Once the remaining thyroid tissue absorbs the Radioactive Iodine, it will die and you will be put on thyroid hormone replacement medication for the rest of your life.
Radioactive Iodine treatment should not be done if you are pregnant. It is also not safe to breastfeed for a time after receiving treatment. Ask you doctor how long you need to wait before it is safe to begin breastfeeding again. You may be instructed to completely stop breastfeeding and switch to formula. It is also recommended that you not become pregnant for several months to a year after Radioactive Iodine treatment.
Hashitoxicosis Signs and Symptoms – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis with a Twist
Hyperthyroidism: Signs and Symptoms
Autoimmune Thyroid Disease – Hashimoto’s and Graves
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Graves Disease, and Weight Gain
Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases and Debilitating Fatigue and Weakness
Thyroid Uptake and Scan
Thyroid Tests: Thyroid Ultrasound
Methimazole (Tapazole) – Signs and Symptoms of Overmedication and Side Effects
Thyroid Hormone Replacement: Signs and Symptoms of Overmedication (Overdose)
Side Effects of Synthroid – Signs that Your Thyroid Medicine is Making You Sick
Synthetic Vs. Natural Thyroid Medication: Synthroid Vs. Armour Thyroid Medicine
Thyroid Disease: Could You Have It?
WebMD – Radioactive Iodine
RadiologyInfo.org – Radioiodine Therapy