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General Practice 2023

Iodotherapy: what it is for, effects on the body and risks

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Iodotherapy: what it is for, effects on the body and risks
Iodotherapy: what it is for, effects on the body and risks

Radioactive iodine is an iodine-based drug that emits radiation, used mainly for the treatment called Iodotherapy, indicated in certain cases of hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer. In smaller doses, it can also be used to evaluate the functioning of the thyroid, in the scintigraphy exam.

Iodine 131 is the most used in the treatment, however, iodine 123 is the best option for performing the exam, as it has lesser effects and duration in the body. To perform this type of procedure on the thyroid, special preparation is necessary, which consists of avoiding foods and medicines that contain iodine about 2 weeks beforehand. See how to diet without iodine.

In addition, some care is required after using radioactive iodine, such as staying isolated in a room for about 3 days, and avoiding contact with other people, especially children and pregnant women, until the drug levels decrease and there is no risk of contaminating others with its effect.

What is it for

The use of radioactive iodine in medicine has 3 main indications:

1. Iodotherapy for Hyperthyroidism

Radioactive iodine can be used to treat hyperthyroidism, especially in Graves' diseases, and is usually indicated when the patient does not improve with the use of drugs, when he cannot use them due to allergies, when he has reactions serious adverse effects to medication or when a more definitive treatment of the disease is needed, such as people who have heart disease, for example.

How it works: treatment with radioactive iodine works by causing intense inflammation in thyroid cells, followed by fibrosis of your tissues, which is responsible for decreasing excess hormones produced.

After the treatment, the person will continue the evaluations with the endocrinologist, who will monitor the thyroid functioning, if the treatment was effective or if there is a need to use medication. Check out more about the main ways to treat hyperthyroidism.

2. Iodotherapy for thyroid cancer

Treatment with radioactive iodine in thyroid cancer is indicated as a way to eliminate traces of cancer cells after thyroid removal, reducing the risk of cancer recurrence. In some cases, it can also be used to help eliminate metastases, and the symptoms produced by them.

How it works: radioactive iodine has an affinity for the thyroid, so it helps to find and eliminate cancer cells from this gland. oncologist to be able to destroy these cells.

Learn more about symptoms that may indicate thyroid cancer, how to diagnose and treat it.

3. Thyroid scintigraphy

It is an exam indicated by doctors to study the functioning of the thyroid, to investigate the diseases that may arise in this organ, especially when there is a suspicion of cancerous nodules or that are producing thyroid hormones in excess.

How it works: to perform the test, the person is asked to ingest a quantity of radioactive iodine (iodine 123 or iodine 131) with a straw, then they are generated images to the device in 2 steps, one after 2 hours and one after 24 hours. As the dose of radioactive iodine is low, the person can go out and carry out their normal activities during this period.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not undergo this test. Learn more about when thyroid scintigraphy is indicated and how it is performed.

Necessary care before radioiodine therapy

For treatment with radioactive iodine, some precautions are necessary before the procedure, which include:

  • Follow an iodine-free diet, not consuming iodine-containing foods in the 2 weeks prior to treatment or examination, which includes s altwater fish, seafood, seaweed, whiskey, industrialized breads, chocolates, canned, spiced products or products containing sardines, tuna or soy and derivatives, such as soy sauce, tofu and soy milk;

See more in the following video:

  • Do not use medications that contain iodine or thyroid hormones in the days prior to the exam, as instructed by the doctor;
  • Avoid chemicals containing iodine in the month before the exam, such as hair dye, nail polish, tanning oil or iodized alcohol, for example;
  • Perform the exam after fasting for at least 4 hours.

Care after radioiodine therapy

After taking the radioactive iodine tablet, the person is left with high doses of radioactivity in the body, which passes through the skin, urine and feces, so some care is necessary to avoid passing the radiation to others:

  • Stay in an isolation room for about 8 days of radioactive iodine use, as directed by the physician.Generally, you can stay in the hospital for 2 to 3 days and on the other days you can be at home, but without contact with others, especially pregnant women and pets;
  • Drinking plenty of water to produce more urine, which helps eliminate radioactivity from the body;
  • Consume citrus products, such as lemon water or candies, to stimulate the salivary glands to produce more saliva and fight dry mouth, and prevent them from suffering from drug accumulation.
  • Always stay at a minimum distance of 1 meter from anyone, not having sex or sleeping in the same bed during the period recommended by the doctor;
  • Wash separately all clothes used during this week, as well as sheets and towels;
  • After urinating or evacuating, always flush 3 times in a row,in addition to not sharing the bathroom with anyone else in the house.

Dishes and cutlery do not need to be washed separately, and there is no need for special food after taking radioactive iodine.

Possible side effects

Some of the side effects that radioactive iodine treatment can cause include nausea, abdominal pain, and swelling and pain in the salivary glands.

In the long term, the effect of radioactive iodine can cause hypothyroidism, requiring the use of medication to replace the lack of thyroid hormones. In addition, the action of radioactive iodine can also impair the functioning of other glands in the body, such as salivary and eye glands, causing dry mouth or dry eyes, for example.

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