Radioactive iodine causes a number of different side effects in people with Graves’ Disease, as well as other types of hyperthyroidism. While some people do need this treatment, most people with a hyperthyroid condition do not need radioactive iodine. I personally was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, and not only did I restore my health back to normal without receiving this harsh treatment method, but I also avoided taking Methimazole, beta blockers, or any other prescription drugs.
Before I discuss some of the other options you have besides receiving radioactive iodine, I want to discuss two huge risks of this treatment method:
Risk #1: Radioactive iodine treatment can make you hypothyroid for the rest of your life. This is the primary side effect of radioactive iodine, as many people end up taking thyroid hormone for the rest of their lives after receiving this harsh treatment method. The reason is because this treatment damages the thyroid gland, which of course will affect the ability of this gland to produce thyroid hormone. So while radioactive iodine can effectively eliminate your hyperthyroid symptoms, it will most likely leave you with hypothyroid symptoms.
And while these symptoms can usually be controlled by taking thyroid hormone daily, why receive a treatment that can damage your thyroid gland, especially when most people with hyperthyroidism have other options to choose from? Since the thyroid gland affects every tissue and cell in your body, you at least owe it to yourself to get a second opinion and look into other treatment options before you receive radioactive iodine.
Risk #2: Radioactive iodine treatment does nothing to address the actual cause of your condition. What I’m about to say might surprise you, as in most cases the malfunctioning thyroid gland is not the actual cause of your condition, even though it is the main reason behind the symptoms of Graves’ Disease or any other hyperthyroid disorder. What this means is that receiving radioactive iodine won’t do anything to address the autoimmune component of Graves’ Disease. This compromised immune system is most likely what led to the malfunctioning thyroid gland in the first place.
So those who just receive radioactive iodine and then take thyroid hormone daily without addressing the actual cause of the disease have a good chance of developing other conditions in the future. In a person with Graves’ Disease, this can lead to another autoimmune thyroid disorder such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, or even other autoimmune conditions, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, lupus, etc..
But besides the immune system being affected, often times other systems of the body are either directly causing or contributing to the malfunctioning thyroid gland. For example, many people with Graves Disease have stressed out adrenal glands, which in turn can lead to a weakened immune system, eventually causing the thyroid gland to malfunction. So once again, radioactive iodine might help prevent the thyroid gland from secreting thyroid hormone, but it won’t address other bodily components.
Why Don’t Endocrinologists Address The Actual Cause Of The Disorder?
You might wonder why endocrinologists and other types of medical doctors don’t address the underyling cause of these conditions, and instead just manage the symptoms by directly treating the thyroid gland. In fact, most endocrinologists label Graves’ Disease as being incurable. I’m not trying to convince you that there is a cure for Graves’ Disease. All I’m trying to say is that most medical doctors, regardless of their specialty, do not try to get to the underlying cause of the condition. Most of them simply try to manage symptoms, and it’s no different with Graves’ Disease.
When I was initially diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, I considered myself as having a thyroid disorder. But after consulting with a holistic doctor and doing some research of my own, I began to realize that in most cases, the thyroid gland is not the primary cause of the condition. I’m not suggesting that it’s a bad idea to manage the symptoms of the thyroid gland, as in many cases it is important to do this. But if this is all you do, and take extreme measures to do this through the use of radioactive iodine, then you are not doing anything for the actual cause of the disorder, which can lead to the development of other serious problems in the future.
What Options Do You Have Besides Radioactive Iodine Treatment?
If your endocrinologist recommends that you receive radioactive iodine treatment, here are some of the other options you can consider:
Option #1: You can take anti-thyroid drugs. This is not a bad short-term option for managing the symptoms, as prescription drugs such as Methimazole and/or Propranolol can often times do a good job of temporarily controlling your hyperthyroid symptoms. However, you need to keep in mind that these drugs are also not doing anything for the actual cause of the disorder. This is why many people who begin taking these drugs eventually receive radioactive iodine.
Option #2: You can begin a natural treatment protocol. More and more people are choosing natural treatment methods for their autoimmune thyroid condition. Even so, most people with Graves’ Disease are unaware that a natural treatment protocol can potentially restore their health back to normal. The truth is that not everybody is an ideal candidate for a natural treatment protocol. On the other hand, many people can be helped through such a protocol.
One of the most important factors is choosing a competent natural endocrine doctor to consult with. Some people make the mistake of trying to self-treat their condition naturally. While it might be tempting to visit your local health food store and purchase some nutritional supplements and/or herbal remedies, doing so can be dangerous, and in most cases, does not lead to optimal results. The reason for this is because restoring one’s health doesn’t just involve taking a few supplements or herbs, but frequently requires a change in lifestyle as well.
Don’t get me wrong, as nutritional supplements and herbs can be an important part of a natural treatment protocol. But in addition to taking the right supplements/herbs, you also need to make sure they are of high quality, and take the proper dosage. And since everyone has different needs, most will need to take different types and dosages. As a result, it is best to play it safe and consult with an expert.
Option #3: You can choose not to receive any type of treatment. Not choosing any type of treatment isn’t a wise option, as Graves’ Disease is a serious condition. Whether you decide to take anti-thyroid drugs, receive radioactive iodine, or choose natural treatment methods is of course completely up to you. But you really do need to get this condition treated.
In summary, radioactive iodine is a harsh treatment method that has long lasting consequences. And while some people do need to receive it, due to the extreme side effects it really should be a last resort in most cases. At the very least you should get a second opinion before receiving such a treatment, and consider consulting with a natural endocrine doctor to see if you are a candidate for natural treatment methods. By consulting with multiple doctors you can get the information you need in order to make an informed decision, and be completely comfortable with the treatment method you choose.
For more information on how to treat Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease through natural treatment methods, please visit my facebook fan page, Graves Disease and Hyperthyroidism: Natural Treatment Solutions (and don't forget to Like the page while you're there!).
Slickety on May 03, 2013:
I cried all throughout reading this article. A little over 20 years ago, in my early 20's, I developed hyperthyroidism, and had the goiter issue along with it. I was treated with prescription meds at first (cynthroid) and the goiter would come and go, mostly during stressful situations. Eventually it got to the point it stayed, and being youg, naïve and dumb, and personal PC's and internet were really not in people's homes like they are now, with all the information one could research, I agreed to it. Other than gaining a bit of weight over the years, fluctuating up and down, I thought all was well. Now, a little over 20 years later, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. I am a person who despises chemical drugs and very much against them, and have now been put back on prescription drugs. I don't believe in "having to take anything for the rest of my life". After being diagnosed,
I thought, oh well, here we go again. Then I began to do research and discovered I have Graves Disease because of the Radioactive treatment 20 years ago, and also that Graves can lead to leukemia and other nightmares. I have recently become very resentful of my Doctor and the Hospital who administered this to me. I'm not sure if they knew back then what the repercussions would be later, or not. But now that I find out that there were a myriad of ways that they COULD HAVE treated me, naturally, I am almost livid.
Since my diagnosis, I have been very lethargic, tired, and my immune system is SHOT! I catch the slightest cold or germs being around anyone sick. I am not a selfish person and don't wish to see others suffer because I am. I advise anyone thinking of accepting this treatment, not to do so unless you are at the end of your rope and just want to live on borrowed time. I don't know if it's too late for me to remedy or rectify my situation, or not, since I have already had the treatment, or a way to purge it from my system. Now I am starting to get too thin, and I don't like it. . I seem to get different stories everywhere, so I no longer know who to believe. But this article and the writer really touched me. There is too much sickness going on in this world, and people are getting these diseases younger and younger, and no one is asky why. Best wishes to all with this disorder. Please do your research!
Cherrell on August 17, 2012:
I wish I had found this information before 2008, as that is when I was diagnosed with Graves and received the RAI. I was really given no information other than being told one way or another I am going to be on some sort of medication for the rest of my life. I wasn't told how serious my condition was other than it was affecting my heart, I wasn't told of alternate methods. It seemed as though it was a cut and dry matter and RAI was the only option. But after reading through your website I feel that I was mislead by the doctors and I actually had another choice and would have taken it if it had been given. Is there anything now that I can do besides the medication I take that will help me so that I can lose this excessive weight I've gained? I do eat sensibly, but my energy level is so low, sluggish digestive system, poor concentration (foggy memory) and cause me to be terribly depressed about the whole thing. Thanks for any information that may further help me.
Roshini on July 31, 2012:
I already had radioactive iodine , I want to know during the treatment (just had radioactive) when i'm touch my kids clothes will it effect to kids.
beverley on June 18, 2012:
had the RAI 6 days ago, I am hyperthyroid and have been for over a 4 year period, was taking carbimazole 40mg a day so was told no choice but to have RAI. Since the RAI i feel okay so far other than my throat feels funny when I swallow a symptom i had not experienced before, feel sicky too. I do not have Graves but have suffered with the horrible puffy eyes, my right eye is always watering which is a pain. I am was hoping this would settle after RAI but reading other blogs am concerned this will not happen, am dreading the weight gain too. So depressing I don't think anyone realises the issues with thyroid problems cause until they are experienced. My GP suggested the RAI could cause early menopause but my consultant dismissed this. will have to wait and see.
Lea on June 07, 2012:
OMG!!! I HAD HYPER NOW IM HYPO I TOOK THE RAI AND I HAVE IMPROVED. I DNT HAVE THE SHAKES AND MY EYES ARE NOT RED BUT THE ARE STILL LARGE. MY HEART PEPS HAVE STOPPED. MY LEVELS ARE FINE. I REALLY WANT HELP WITH MT GRAVES DISEASE IS THERE A CURE OR MEDS. IM SORRY EVERYONE ELSE IS HAVING SOOO MANY PROBLEMS.
Teresa on May 25, 2012:
I am sorry for all of your plights. Graves Disease is a hard thing to have, because for the most part, you don’t look bad. I had it for years before I was diagnosed at 24. I was put on anti-thyroid medicines for 2 years and then had to stop because it inhibited my ability to make white blood cells (a rare side effect). So I took the RAI, enough to destroy my whole gland my doctor said. I did OK until I became menopausal. I started having trouble sleeping, memory problems, bad heart palpitations, and a lot of other problems. For 5 years, I hopped from doctor to doctor trying to get help. No one could find a problem. Most said it was menopause and aging. My cholesterol started rising, my blood pressure was all over the place, my ears started ringing. I really thought I was going to die if someone didn’t figure out my problem. One doctor wanted to put me on antidepressants and said it was the natural aging process. I didn’t give up. I finally found someone who was willing to put me on natural thyroid hormone. Initially, it helped—but I kept backsliding. I went on T3 alone, based on tests showing I had a lot of reverse T3 in my blood. That didn’t work I still felt bad, and actually it seemed I was speeding towards getting even worse.
Finally, my doctor heard one of my new symptoms—seeing balls of lights slowly roll around my eyes when I turned the lights of and it reminded him of another patient he had. And he finally diagnosed me with hyperparathyroidism. One of the long term side effects of RAI is damage to one of the parathyroids. The surgeon who removed my parathyroid adenoma said that 25% of RAI recipients get hyperparathyroidism averaging 10 years after RAI. He said all that was left of my thyroid was a little nubbin—and a lot of scar tissue. A lot of doctors don’t know that the new recommendation for recipients of RAI is to get your calcium and PTH levels checked every two years. My calcium levels were mostly high normal, but occasionally it went even higher. It was the PTH test that was always high.
So it’s been a year since surgery. I was still having palpitations. My doctor said that I was normal and that most people have palpitations. But I didn’t give up and take her word for it. I went online and did some deep research on what could cause palpitations, and I followed the idea that iodine might be the cause. I started to take Lugol’s 2% iodine solution, one drop a day—3 mg of iodine/iodide. My palpitations went away and I started having energy and an ability to sleep that I haven’t had in years. Now I’m thinking—could iodine deficiency been my problem all along? I’m finding research that claims just that.
What do people think--is iodine deficiency the root cause?
Kami Lloyd on May 09, 2012:
I was unable to finish my last comment. I was wondering what I should do to treat my grave disease once my thyroid is back to normal.
Kami Lloyd on May 09, 2012:
I just just received RAI 3 hours ago. Even with graves disease I don't think I could have done anything else. My TSH level was a trace amount that would not register. Are you suggesting that this could be treated any other way. I've been almost bedridden for 3 months now. I found out 3 weeks ago the cause.
Zainabalwagga on April 21, 2012:
I'm 35year old I I have total thyrodectomy done to me one week ago coz I was diagnosed as papillary carcinoma of thyroid my question is that do I have to take the radioactive iodine and what wii be its side effect to me
Channah on April 13, 2012:
hi i am 16 years old and have been diagnosed with graves diease and a toxic goitre i am currently on neo mercazole and other natural meds i need help feeling rather frustrated at this point in time please advise me on what to do
mariav on April 12, 2012:
Hoping someone can help, as I have very little trust in doctors now..
Maria Vinciguerra on April 12, 2012:
Last year I was found to have hyperactive thyroid. I was told by an endocronologist that radioactive iodine was the best thing I could do. She said otherwise I'd be on other drugs that could damage my liver for my whole life. I am now a 40 year old female, then 39. I didn't do my research and trusted this Dr. I was never told of the side effects that have occurred now. My eyes are puffy all the time, always full of aches, I used to run 8 miles a day 6 days a week, now it is difficult to even walk at times. I sleep a lot. I am on synthroid and we are trying to regulate the thyroid, since it is underactive. There are antibodies attacking the thyroid which she never mentioned when I had hyperactive , so I am assuming they came out after? I am not with that Dr. anymore. I am also of course afraid that I cannot conceive anymore.
I know I need eye surgery also, the eyes only got puffy after the treatment. Do you have any suggestions that may help?
nelly on April 11, 2012:
I have been having thyroid for 5 years, last year it was all normal but, the last appointment that i had it was suposeally high then the doctor sugested me to take radioactive iodine.
Nicole on April 03, 2012:
I was dx with graves disease five years ago. I have taken PTU and. Tapizole I developed all the classic signs of the disease was then placed on beta blocker radioactive iodine was my last resort the other medication failed to bring my levels down my eyed buldged, I was nervous, I could not exercise per doctors order in fear of a heart attack or stroke due to increased heart rate. Since the RAI I have gained 26 pounds in one year I am currently taking synthroid my levels are in the normal range but most days I very tired cold and emotionally unstable. I do not recommend RAI
Veronica on March 12, 2012:
Hi Dr. Eric,
I have a question for you. I took the RAI treatment about 6 or 7 weeks ago. I have not been put on medicine yet and have been very tired. My feces are dark agonist black and my mom told me that is bc of iron. Does the thyroid affect the absorption of iron? If not, could my thyroid still be the cause of my fatigue and why?
gmomshirley on March 10, 2012:
This is interestng about treatment of Graves Disease
Brian on March 06, 2012:
I have Hyperthyroidism (Graves disease)been taking the ptu and digoxin and medatoperal still 2x the level doctor telling me to start thinking about options Radioactive Iodine or removal been on theses for months have lost 35lbs and starting to have eye problems. would like more indepth information of what the side affects of the Radioactive Iodine, i need to pick an option soon cant go through this much longer ( it is killing me and my family )
cheska on February 21, 2012:
does weak menstruation is part of the side effect of taking iodine therapy?
Laura on January 15, 2012:
I received RAI a few weeks ago and my hyperthyroidism has gone into hyperdrive. It turned out I was allergic to thyroid meds and have a history of PEs so surgery was not a safe option. Planning to start a family via IVF due to a complicated medical history. Thoughts on moving more toward Eastern medicine?
Deonne on January 12, 2012:
I received RAI last week. 4 days after receiving treatment I started feeling the same way I did when I first got sick,ex. shortness of breath, chest pain,unable to swallow pills,gag reflux,heartburn etc.Can you convert back to hyperthrolism after treatment?
teresa on January 12, 2012:
Hi doc I been dianose with hyperthyroids for a year now they just started reacting to my body I have allergic reaction to the pills and my levels are 0.042 is this too low. Please help me
kerwin on January 06, 2012:
hi dr. what if the tyroid patient didn't accept RAI what is her second option DR.
jacquelyn on January 01, 2012:
hi dr. eric.it is so good to hear positive information on naturally healing graves disease. i had a feeling that something else was causing this. of course the endocrinologist said for me no other way but RAI. i have 2 very bad teeth almost dissolved out of my mouth (sorry to say) and 1 with 8 pins in my jaw for 30 years. looked at a chart and it said they correspond to the thyroid. is this true. dr said my count was at a 7 for thyroid hormone output. said that t cells were very high and that after the curing treatment they would just float around in my body! is this true. thanks so much for what you do to educate people.
pardoc05 on December 24, 2011:
I drank a dose of RAI on 2/15/05 and have had numerous problems since (weight gain--no matter how much I exercise and how little I eat [but the lab tests say "normal" with the synthroid and cytomel], joint pain especially in my knees, bouts of intense depression). In addition, it has been a struggle to get any doctor to listen to my story and to consider the Graves disease diagnosis that was given to me in 2004. In other words, NO ONE has bothered yet to consider "GRAVES DISEASE"; all want to simply treat the hypothyroid symptoms. What's more: over time, I have read a significant number of articles about other possible issues. Most of the Graves disease symptoms likely could have been classified as a result of the antidepressant medication I had been on for about a year prior to the diagnosis.
I urge *every* *single* *person* to get a second opinion about any radioactive drug BEFORE taking it. Drinking RAI was the single biggest mistake I have ever made.
angiemarie1 on December 15, 2011:
ok so here goes nothing i was diagnosed with graves/hyperthyriodism a yr and a half ago i had been taking proplthyuracil and was switched to methimazole i take 30 mg of that in the morning. for the past 2 months my eyes have been bulging really bad they are still positioned right they just protrude i was wondering should i get the RAI treatment or will they go away on there own im lost i dont know what to do anymore they hurt so bad what can i do to help myself ive been following articles on graves eye disease for days now and i have read so much and im really freaking out i just turned 30 will i be dealing with this for the rest of my life will i ever be normal again PLEASE HELP ME!!!!
nialae on November 25, 2011:
Hi Doctor, I REALLY WISHED I READ THIS BEFORE I TOOK THE RADIOACTIVE PILL! For three years I've had Graves and avoided the Endoconologist for a while until my eyes started changing. One eye is bigger then the other. It's noticable and makes me very self cautious when others are looking at me. But here's the problem, Ever since I took the pill I've noticed my eyes are ALWAYS RED! No mater what I put in them to take the red out. When I did my f/u the Dr says not to worry about it that it'll go away in time. Just like what he said with my eye size. Well, I don't like looking like I'm on Drugs! I work at a School and it's very UPSETTING! Do you have any ADVICE?
DrEricO23 (author) on October 18, 2011:
Since RAI doesn't do anything to address the autoimmune component of Graves' Disease, there is a pretty good chance of developing another autoimmune condition.
Olga on October 17, 2011:
What are the odds of developing another autoinmune disease after having RAI?
marsutt on May 24, 2011:
One day left before RAI treatment. I was on Methimazole for about 3 weeks. I've been off of it for 3 days. My heart palpitations have seized. The nervousness has gone away. Should I still go through with this RAI treatment or give the meds a little longer?
Aslam on May 13, 2011:
Amreet I suggest your dad go for RAI.after taking the iodine ,drink plenty of water.preferably flush it down with coconut water.hyperthyroidism really screws ones life up.no point waiting for remission.safe him right away.if you don't very high chance it could lead to other fatal problems .I'm victim of it at age 40.best wishes.
amreet on April 09, 2011:
hello Dr;my father is suffering frm hyperthyroidism(graves disease from past 20years...we have consulted many doctors,most of them suggested for surgery but we refused,now doctor suggested to have radioactive iodine treatment..what should we do in this case??as his condition is worstening day by day....
Joana Cardoso on March 07, 2011:
Hello Dr. Eric
I have two questions: First, if there is in fact a cure for Graves Disease (if you can address the real cause).
Second, when you say that radioactive has long lasting consequences, what do you mean? Is it that serious? Because I've heard many doctors prefer to use it instead of trying anti-thyroid drugs.
Sorry for my bad english.
Joana Cardoso, Portugal
DrEricO23 (author) on February 03, 2011:
If you haven't done so already, I would visit my website and read some of the articles which will explain the pros and cons. Here are some of the articles you might want to check out:
Ros on February 02, 2011:
My husband has Hyperthyroidism (Graves disease) for the last 5 months he is on medication for this but blood tests show recently that his levels are still too high and medication is not fixing problem.
He has seen an eye specialist and was told he eyes are ok but possibly one eye is protruding out but not that bad.
He has to consider options which are the radio active Iodine treatment with steriods or surgery. We are totally confused which way to go
Can you give us the pros and cons
bobcenasmiththethird on January 04, 2011:
is this a blog
DrEricO23 (author) on September 06, 2010:
There really isn't anything you can do, but if you could convince your dad to seek a second opinion that would be great, especially if it's from a natural endocrine doctor. Most endocrinologists will recommend RAI, so there is no guarantee that seeing a different endocrinologist will result in a different opinion.
Sue on September 06, 2010:
My Dad has been on Carbimazole for several years then was stopped He has been recalled to his TFT's to be checked then referred to see an Endocrinologist who has decided for him to have RAI I am not happy with this decision can anybody help please
DrEricO23 (author) on July 18, 2010:
Hi Dr. Shashi,
I would consult with a natural endocrine doctor before receiving the radioactive iodine therapy. RAI usually should be the last resort.
dr shashi on July 16, 2010:
i am recently dignosed, started carbimazole for last 3 days, now endocranologist has adviced for Radio iodine, am good athlete, Inesivist working 12- 14 hrs, should i go for it, pl advice............email@example.com
Tatjana-Mihaela from Zadar, CROATIA on April 19, 2010:
Natural methods are certainly the best, most tender and most successful. I also healed my own hyperthiroidism with natural methods (homeopathy - my own combination of various homeopathics)after 15 years of suffering. It never came back and I am completely without any problems now. Thumbs up for your Hub.