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The 3 different treatments for an overactive thyroid

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Treatment options


Treatment Cannot use if Advantages Disadvantages
Tablets carbimazole, propylthiouracil (PTU) You have had a severe reaction to one of these drugs
  • Quite quick to work (4-6 weeks)
  • Sudden swings in thyroid hormone level unlikely
  • Painless
  • 12-18 months course of tablets
  • Thyroid overactivity comes back in 60-70% of patients after treatment.
  • 10% risk of rash or other minor side-effects
  • Very rarely stops production of white blood cells
Radioiodine You are pregnant or breast feeding
  • Painless
  • Permanent – low chance of over activity coming back
  • Slow action (up to 6 months): tablets may be needed during this time
  • High chance (50%-80%) of permanent thyroid under activity requiring thyroxine tablets
  • May worsen eye problems
  • Need to avoid prolonged close contact with others for a 1-2 weeks after treatment
Surgery You are unfit for an operation or your thyroid over activity is not controlled first
  • Quick (days)
  • Permanent – low chance of over activity coming back
  • Risk of general anaesthetic
  • Low risk of causing hoarse voice or damage to calcium controlling glands
  • Likely to cause thyroid under activity requiring thyroxine tablets
  • Temporary discomfort
  • Neck scar

Who do I contact if I have any questions?


Endocrine Specialist Nurses
uhsussex.ens@nhs.net

Royal Sussex County Hospital
Endocrine specialist nurse
01273 696955 extension 64379

Princess Royal Hospital, Haywards Heath
Endocrine specialist nurse
01444 441881 extension 65660

If you have any urgent or emergency questions then your GP can advise you or they will contact the hospital on your behalf.

Patient self-help groups and further information: British Thyroid Foundation

There are short videos about thyroid treatment options available on our website.


This information is intended for patients receiving care in Brighton & Hove or Haywards Heath.

This information is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.

Publication Date: July 2021

Review Date: April 2024

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