How You Can Perform Self-Care After Receiving Radioactive Iodine As A Treatment For Hyperthyroidism


Hyperthyroidism affects more than one percent of Americans with females representing the large majority of patients. It can be a serious condition, but there are highly successful options for treatment, including the use of radioactive iodine. Despite misconceptions about its use, radioactive iodine is a well-established, safe treatment for hyperthyroidism, and patients should expect to reap the benefits of treatment within a few weeks. As with any medical procedure, self-care after receiving radioactive iodine is important for maximizing the healing effects of the treatment and for preventing possible negative side effects. Below is what you should know:

Stay well-hydrated

Immediately following receiving a dose of radioactive iodine, it is important to begin the process of flushing excess iodine from your body. The iodine will naturally concentrate inside your thyroid, where it will begin the process of destroying harmful cells, but the remainder will circulate inside your body and be removed through urination and defecation.

That means you should start drinking copious amounts of water and other liquids following treatment. Drink at least 8 ounces of liquids per waking hour for the first three days after the treatment, as this will increase urine volume and speed up the flushing process. In addition, water is also carried through the colon and further enhances the formation of bulky, full stools that can capture iodine.

Keep your distance from others

Though not a danger to those who have recently received iodine treatments, the output of radioactive iodine from your body can expose others who are in close proximity. That is why you should take steps to keep exposure at a minimal level; below are a couple of ways to make this happen:

  • Maintain a safety zone - For a period of time after receiving your treatment, it is important to maintain a safety zone between yourself and others. By avoiding close contact, you will prevent person-to-person transfer of radioactive particles. Your physician can provide you with a recommendation about how far apart and for how long you need to maintain separation.

  • Do not intermingle possessions - After receiving a radioactive dose, it is critical to avoid sharing items with others; this should include eating utensils and care items, such as hair brushes, for example. In addition, perform your own laundry and avoid mixing clothing and linens in the same batches as others in the household.

  • Use caution when exercising personal hygiene - Since urine and stools can carry radioactive particles, it is important to prevent others from coming into contact with them. Always clean shared toilets after each use and avoid splashing urine, especially if you are a male. If possible, use separate toilet facilities altogether for a duration recommended by your doctor.

Treat minor symptoms

While significant symptoms after receiving a dose of radioactive iodine are fairly rare, there are a few side effects that are known to occur. Here is a list of the most common ones and what you can do to treat them:

  • Dry mouth - Using chewing gum and sucking on hard candies can help eliminate dry mouth. However, be sure to maintain a strong teeth brushing regimen to help prevent tooth decay if you don't use sugar-free gum and candy. In addition, drinking plenty of water as recommended earlier will also help reduce the discomfort caused by mouth dryness.

  • Metallic taste - Disguising the unpleasant taste caused by radioactive iodine can be difficult, making eating and drinking less enjoyable, but fruits and vegetables are known to be more palatable than many other kinds of foods. Fruits and vegetables can be blended and added to a variety of other foods, as well, which can help reduce bad tastes.

  • Neck discomfort - The effects of the radioactive iodine on the thyroid can increase sensitivity in that region and cause pain or discomfort. The use of over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help lessen discomfort, and you may also use heat compresses or cold packs to reduce pain.

  • Upset stomach - A common side effect after receiving radioactive iodine, nausea is usually temporary and will pass on its own. In the meantime, taking anti-nausea medicine as well as other types of stomach treatment options can help soothe your digestive system.

Talk to your radiation specialist and physician for more information. 

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