There are really two stages to coping with Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism. The first is in dealing with the condition at its active stage, when the thyroid is overactive. The second is the time after treatment when most patients become hypothyroid, after the thyroid has been radioactively ablated or surgically removed. Here are some important ways to live well and cope with Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism, and the post-treatment hypothyroidism that many patients experience.
Find Great Doctors
One very important factor is to find the right doctor for your thyroid care, and to work effectively with that practitioner. Many people suffering from Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism — especially those who might undergo RAI or surgery — should consider receiving care from an endocrinologist until their hyperthyroidism is fully treated.
Various directories can help you find thyroid doctors.
Keep in mind that with a shortage of endocrinologists in the U.S., if you need regularly scheduled appointments with your endocrinologist, book them far in advance.
Once you’re hypothyroid and on thyroid hormone replacement, you may not need an endocrinologist to manage your thyroid condition. To find out, read: Do you really need an endocrinologist?
Also, to help determine what type of doctor you may want to work with for long-term thyroid management, take the Quiz: What Type of Doctor is Best For You and Your Thyroid Treatment?
can help you determine where to start.
You can also visit the Thyroid Top Doctors Forum, for additional support in finding a great doctor.
Live Well With Lifelong Hypothyroidism After RAI and Surgery
After RAI and surgery, most patients do become permanently hypothyroid, and require lifelong thyroid hormone replacement medication.
Some patients still describe themselves hyperthyroid or as having Graves’ disease, but that is not true, because in reality, after RAI or surgery, most people become hypothyroid.
Graves’ or hyperthyroidism patients post-RAI or surgery can monitor symptoms by taking the following quiz, Could You Be Hypothyroid?, or by filling out the Hypothyroidism Risk/Symptoms Checklist.
An important issue for any post-RAI or surgery patient is the proper treatment and management of their hypothyroidism with Thyroid Hormone Replacement Drugs
Issues related to lifelong hypothyroidism are the topic of ongoing discussion at the main About.com Thyroid Disease Forum.
Manage Your Weight
Weight gain typically follows hyperthyroidism treatment, and the majority of patients will gain weight or struggle to maintain a healthy weight. So avoiding weight gain, or losing extra weight, is an important issue for many people after hyperthyroidism treatment, and living with the resulting hypothyroidism.
The Thyroid Diet and Weight Loss Information Center has articles, resources and tools to help you, including:
Quiz: Is Your Thyroid Making You Fat?
How to Increase Your Metabolism
7 Diet Secrets for Thyroid Patients
Overcome Fertility, Pregnancy or Breastfeeding Problems
Women need to be aware that there are special concerns and recommendations for women with Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism who are pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding — or women who find themselves with hyperthyroidism during pregnancy. The Fertility, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Information Center has articles related to the effects of thyroid disease on fertility, managing thyroid problems during pregnancy, and breastfeeding for thyroid patients.
You may also want to read Hyperthyroidism/Graves’ Disease and Pregnancy — Frequently Asked Questions.
Women’s specific thyroid issues are also discussed at the Thyroid & Hormones, Fertility, and Pregnancy Forum.
Other information on these important issues is available at these About.com health sites:
Cut Back on Stimulants
Smoking has a long list of health dangers, but it’s especially bad for Graves’ disease patients, as it can worsen Graves’ ophthalmopathy, and increase your risk of relapse. Quitting isn’t easy! (Believe me, I know. I smoked for 15 years before I quit in 1995! If you’re interested in how I did it, read about how I quit smoking .) But About.com’s Smoking Cessation site can help you quit too, with articles, information, and Quit Smoking support groups.
When you are hyperthyroid, your symptoms, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, can be dramatically worsened by taking anything that has stimulant properties. This is why you need to carefully read the labels on over-the-counter medicines, and if it says not to take with thyroid disease, listen!! This is a particular concern for over-the-counter cold remedies that contain pseudoephedrine (i.e., “Sudafed”) which can quickly worsen your symptoms. Also make sure you discuss with your physician before having any numbing medicine, like Novocaine. In some people with Graves’ and hyperthyroidism, getting numbed may trigger a racing heartbeat. You may also want to avoid overindulging in stimulants like caffeine, and be careful about diet and energy supplements that include caffeine, guarana, ephedra (ma huang) and other stimulant ingredients.
Another important issue for Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism patients is to reduce stress, and practice some form of relaxation and stress reduction. This means regularly practicing some activity that generations the relaxation response, with its associated physical benefits.
More information on the connection is dicussed in Graves’ Disease and Stress.
Some of the healing approaches to stress reduction that may be of help include:
Tai Chi, Qi Gong
Cognitive Therapy, Psychotherapy or Counseling
Creative Therapies: Art, Music and Dance Therapy
Meditation and Guided Imagery
Yoga, Pranayama breathing
Reiki and Energy work
About.com’s Stress Reduction site has many ideas on how to incorporate healthy relaxation and stress reduction into your life.
Get and Give Support
Participating in a support group is also an important part of coping with your chronic thyroid condition. I have a number of online support groups where you’ll find helpful fellow patients who can share information, support and friendship.
About.com Thyroid Disease Forum
Hyperthyroidism & Graves’ Disease
Thyroid & Hormones, Fertility, Menopause
Thyroid Cancer Support
Thyroid Diet and Weight Loss
Thyroid Top Doctors & Support Groups
Thyroid Disease: UK & Ireland
Learn More and Stay Informed
As part of your information gathering, you may want a read a book on Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism. You may want to read my review of Graves’ disease, A Practical Guide by Elaine Moore. Another article that looks at Elaine Moore’ book is The 10 Things Your Doctor May Not Have Told You About Graves’ Disease.
You can also read an article by Mary Kugler, About.com’s Rare Diseases Guide, who reviewed my book, Living Well With Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism.
With new developments coming out all the time, it’s important that you stay up to date on the latest thyroid news. To find out what’s happening in the thyroid world, sign up for Mary Shomon’s free weekly email Thyroid Newsletter, which features the latest news on thyroid disease diagnosis, treatment, and related health issues of interest.
You can also bookmark the About.com Thyroid Blog — where you’ll find up-to-the-minute information about the latest thyroid news, and links to thyroid information and news here on the site, and around the web.
And don’t forget that even celebrities get thyroid problems. You might find inspiration in the story of Olympian Gail Devers’, who came back from severe Graves’ disease to win an Olympic medal. Other famous thyroid patients are featured in this online gallery of celebrity thyroid patients