How Graves’ disease is treated

How Graves' disease is treated

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, the butterfly-shaped organ at the front of the neck. It is caused by a malfunction of the thyroid gland, resulting in an overproduction of thyroid hormones. Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States.

Common treatment options include antithyroid drugs, radioactive iodine therapy, and thyroidectomy (the removal of the thyroid). Certain complementary and alternative medicines are also known to help relieve the symptoms of this condition.

This article will describe medications, procedures, home remedies, and dietary changes that are helpful in treating Graves’ disease.

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There are antithyroid medications that people can take to relieve the symptoms of Graves’ disease. Tapazol (methimazole), propylthiouraciland Neo-Mercazole and Anti-Thyrox (carbimazole) are all drugs that prevent the thyroid gland from producing too much thyroid hormone.

People with Graves’ disease may be prescribed immunosuppressive drugs, which prevent your immune system from attacking, such as oral corticosteroids. Steroids prevent the body from making cytokines (which regulate the body’s response to disease and infection) which cause inflammation.

Radioactive iodine therapy

Radioactive iodine therapy (RAI) treats Graves’ disease by damaging or destroying thyroid cells with radiation. It may sound ominous, but it’s usually harmless. During this procedure, you are given a tablet to swallow. You will be asked to drink plenty of water to flush out any remaining radioactive iodine from your system. You may experience a temporary change in taste.

RAI is a one-time therapy for most people. If symptoms persist for six months or more, you may need a second dose.

People with thyroid eye disease or proptosis (swelling of one or both eyes) are not candidates for radioactive iodine treatment. Also, people who smoke have a very high risk of developing thyroid eye disease after radioactive iodine treatment.

Safety precautions after radioactive iodine therapy

Iodine-131 can be present in body fluids after treatment, which can be harmful to children, pregnant women and even pets. It is recommended to stand 6 feet away and sleep alone for 3-11 days.

Learn more: Protecting your family after radioactive iodine treatment


Thyroidectomy is a medical procedure in which a surgeon removes the entire thyroid. It can cure hyperthyroidism, but there is a risk that it can cause hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), which requires lifelong treatment with Synthroid (levothyroxine).

Before surgery, you will have blood drawn, tests such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and your vocal cords will be examined using an instrument called laryngoscope.

Thyroidectomy can be performed through an incision in the front of the neck or through the mouth. The former can cause permanent scarring.

Possible complications of surgery include:

  • Voice changes, such as hoarseness
  • Sore throat
  • Bleeding and blood clots
  • Adhesions or scar tissue requiring surgery
  • Injury to the esophagus or trachea

Home remedies and lifestyle

Eye symptoms associated with Graves’ disease, such as dryness and swelling, can often be treated at home. Home remedies include:

  • Using a cold washcloth on your eyes provides extra moisture if your eyes are dry.
  • Eye drops can help relieve dryness and itching.
  • Elevating your head in bed can reduce swelling around your eyes.
  • Wearing sunglasses can reduce your exposure to light if your eyes are sensitive.

Dietary Considerations

Graves’ disease can affect your digestion and weight. What you eat can help relieve some digestive discomfort. A diet low in iodine is important to increase the effectiveness of radioactive iodine therapy. The following foods are low in iodine:

  • Fresh fruits like berries and avocados
  • All vegetables
  • Fatty fish like salmon
  • Beans (if canned, choose low-sodium or no-salt options)
  • Whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice
  • Nuts
  • Chia and flax seeds

Try to avoid overly processed foods and caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea. Caffeine can interfere with the effectiveness of some medications, but caffeine-free coffee and tea can be appreciated.


There are a variety of supplements that may benefit people with Graves’ disease. These include:

  • Selenium: It is a mineral that plays a role in metabolism and brain function. Iodine, the key ingredient in thyroid hormone, requires selenium to be properly synthesized into thyroid hormone. Selenium is the only supplement that has consistently been shown to benefit people with Graves’ disease.
  • Vitamin B-12: Vitamin B-12 is found primarily in animal products, including meats, dairy products, and eggs. You can take supplements in pill form or by injection (by a doctor), which can boost energy levels if you have a B-12 deficiency (which is more common in people with auto thyroid disease). -immune).
  • The iron: Graves’ disease interferes with iron metabolism. If you aren’t able to get enough iron in your diet from foods like leafy greens, nuts, or red meat, a supplement may help.
  • lemon balm: Preliminary studies have shown that this member of the mint family can calm an overactive thyroid; however, further research is needed.
  • L-carnitine: Some research has suggested that this substance may reduce symptoms associated with an overactive thyroid.

Discuss supplements with your healthcare provider

Be sure to check with your health care provider before starting any new supplement. You can also check with the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (NIH ODS) for the safety profile of a specific supplement.


Graves’ disease can be treated with various medications and procedures, including radioactive iodine therapy and thyroidectomy. Complementary therapies such as dietary changes, supplements, and home symptom management may also help relieve symptoms. Always check with your health care provider before trying any new supplement, diet, or home remedy, as it may interfere with your current treatment plan.

A word from Verywell

Graves’ disease is a treatable condition that can be supplemented with home care. Over time, your condition may go into remission, which means you may become asymptomatic or even completely cured of it. If your symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider for a checkup and see if another treatment plan can help.