Treatment Options for Thyroid Conditions

Many thyroid problems can be treated without surgery. The treatment chosen by your doctor will depend on your condition. The most common medical treatments and surgeries are described here.

Medical treatment

An over-active thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can be treated with drugs that slow down production of thyroid hormones. Radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid drugs are used to reduce thyroid hormone production. But, both these treatments can result in an underactive thyroid, which then also requires treatment.

An under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) is treated by replacing the hormone that is not being produced in enough quantities. The drugs used for this may also be used to treat thyroid cancer or other thyroid conditions.

Surgery

In certain cases, an operation to remove some or all of your thyroid gland may be needed. For example:

  • If you have a large goitre or nodule (growth on the thyroid) that is pressing on your windpipe or causing other symptoms because of its size
  • If you are not able to tolerate the thyroid medications (i.e., you have severe side-effects)
  • If you are not able/do not want to have radioiodine therapy
  • If you have thyroid nodules that are cancerous, if cancer cannot be ruled out or if the nodule continues to grow despite medical therapy

There are several different types of thyroid surgery, such as:

  • Biopsy or lumpectomy – when only a small part of the thyroid is removed
  • A lobectomy – when only half of the thyroid gland is removed
  • Sub-total thyroidectomy – when only a small amount of thyroid tissue on both sides is left after surgery
  • Near-total thyroidectomy – when only about a gram of thyroid tissue is left on one side after surgery
  • Total thyroidectomy – when all of the thyroid tissue is removed

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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