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Graves Disease

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Treatment of Graves disease is geared to reducing the hormones produced by the thyroid gland and relieving symptoms. Typically, there are three main treatment options:

  • Medications are prescribed:
    • Beta-blockers, such as propranolol, may reduce the effects of thyroid hormone on the body. These medications can relieve rapid heart rate, sweating, and anxiety and minimize shaking and nervousness caused by increased hormone activity. Beta-blockers work quickly and provide relief while waiting for long-term treatments to take effect.
    • Anti-thyroid drugs reduce thyroid hormone production. These are usually prescribed for no more than 1 to 2 years. For some people, normal thyroid function will continue after the drugs are stopped. For most people, additional treatment will be required.
  • A large dose of radioactive iodine may be given to destroy most or all of the thyroid gland, reducing hormone levels and eliminating the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. In some cases, this therapy is not adequate to cure Graves disease and may need to be repeated. Over time, the thyroid gland may have decreased function and the person may develop hypothyroidism, though this may not develop for many years. Because of this, those who have been treated may need to be monitored.
  • Sometimes surgery is performed to remove the thyroid gland. Once the thyroid has been removed or destroyed, the person will need to take thyroid hormone replacement medication.

Most of the eye problems associated with Graves disease decrease as the hormone levels are lowered, but some may require further action. For more about treatment, see the Related Pages section.

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