Radioactive iodine ablation therapy is a reliable procedure for treating hyperthyroidism patients. To understand what radioactive iodine treatment is and how it works, read on.
In the human body, thyroid is the only organ that has ability to absorb iodine. In fact, iodine is crucial for normal production of the thyroid hormones. Taking these into consideration, radioactive iodine therapy is purported to deal with ailments related to the thyroid gland. In the United States, radioactive iodine ablation of the thyroid is the most commonly proceeded therapeutic method for hyperthyroidism.
What is Radioactive Iodine Ablation?
Taken at a glance, Radioactive Iodine (abbreviated as RAI) is similar to the type of iodine present in seaweed, fish, seafood and other foods. The only thing is this radioactive version releases beta particles that counteract the function of some thyroid cells. Precisely speaking, it is the electron produced by RAI that makes it important in therapeutic application. Hearing the name, most people are concerned with this treatment option, assuming that it involves ingestion radioactive iodine.
Of all the therapeutic techniques, radioactive iodine ablation is considered the most reliable approach for goiter (leading to overactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism treatment because, it neither involves complicated surgery, nor causes major side effects. A single dose (oral capsule or solution) is given to the patient with this thyroid problem, and the given RAI is absorbed only by the thyroid, thus causing no adverse effects to remaining organs. Also, when compared to antithyroid drugs, radioactive ablation is found to be more effective in curing hyperthyroidism patients permanently.
How does Radioactive Iodine Ablation Work?
As we all are aware, hyperthyroidism patients have an overactive and enlarged thyroid gland, leading to secretion of excess thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) and causing various symptoms. The main objective of radioactive iodine treatment is to gradually destroy some of the tissues in the thyroid gland, so that it does not produce thyroid hormones in large amounts. Most likely, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism will disappear gradually after about 2 weeks of the treatment session.
Coming to the working of radioactive iodine therapy, the delivered RAI is quickly assimilated by the digestive parts (stomach and intestine). This iodine isotope is then released to the bloodstream, which carries further to the thyroid gland. The thyroid cells after absorbing it cease to function normally, thus reducing amount of secreted hormones. There are some precautionary measures that every candidate should adopt within 5 days following the treatment. This is to ensure that other people do not get exposed to radiation.
The suggested self care tips are drinking plenty of water (to flush off radioiodine), not sharing personal items, sleeping isolated, avoiding direct contact with others and/or maintaining a safe distance from other people. After radioactive iodine ablation of the thyroid is over, the advocated iodine is expelled from body via urination. One should strictly follow the directions suggested by the concerned doctor for getting prompt results, and also, for minimizing the risks associated with radiation therapy.
Are There Side Effects of Radioactive Iodine Ablation?
Rarely some side effects of RAI are manifested, which include sore throat, nauseated feeling within few hours of ingesting RAI and swelling of the salivary glands after coming in contact with iodine. To be on the safer side, pregnant women are not recommended to undergo radioactive ablation, and breastfeeding mother should not continue feeding babies, until the doctor gives approval. In case of high intake of radioiodine, there are chances that the thyroid gland becomes underactive, resulting in hypothyroidism symptoms. For such a case, thyroid hormone pills are recommended.
Overall, the effectiveness of radioactive iodine treatment is highly impressive, and its side effects occur in rare cases. In addition to hyperthyroidism, radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer is found to be equally effective. In general, a patient diagnosed with thyroid cancer receives two treatment options, radioactive ablation and surgical procedure. The former aids in killing cancerous cells right in the thyroid glands and remaining areas of the body. Following this, a candidate is recommended to take medications to compensate the loss of thyroid gland tissues.