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What You Need To Know About The Radioactive Iodine Uptake Test

Many people with hyperthyroidism receive a test called the Radioactive Iodine Uptake test.  With this test the patient swallows a small dosage of radioactive iodine.  Since the thyroid gland uses iodine to produce thyroid hormone, it will absorb the small dosage of radioactive iodine.  The absorption of the radioactive iodine is then evaluated after six hours, and then again after 24 hours.

If the uptake of radioiodine is high then this indicates that your thyroid gland is producing an excess of thyroxine.  This is usually due to Graves’ Disease, but can also be related to thyroid nodules.  If your radioiodine uptake test is low, but it’s confirmed that you have hyperthyroidism, then you probably have thyroiditis.

The Radioactive Iodine Uptake Test Won’t Damage Your Thyroid Gland

I have received some emails from people who didn’t want to receive this test because they were afraid it would damage their thyroid gland.  Part of this is probably due to the fact that I frequently talk about the risks of radioactive iodine treatment, and how one should avoid this treatment method if at all possible.

But it’s important to understand that the dosage given for the radioactive iodine uptake test is much smaller than the dosage given during radioactive iodine therapy.  So does this mean that it’s completely harmless to the thyroid gland?  Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say this, as any treatment which involves radiation isn’t completely harmless, even if the dosage is small.  But it’s not going to destroy enough thyroid cells to have a significant impact on thyroid function.

So should everyone with hyperthyroidism receive the radioactive iodine uptake test in order to rule out Graves’ Disease?  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this, as if someone tests positive for hyperthyroidism and also has a positive test for thyroid antibodies, then in my opinion it’s not necessary to receive this test.  On the other hand, if the thyroid antibodies test is negative, then obtaining the radioactive iodine uptake test can help determine if someone has Graves’ Disease.

After all, just because someone has a negative test for thyroid antibodies doesn’t mean they don’t have Graves’ Disease.  These antibodies fluctuate, and so if someone has a negative reading then it might be a good idea to receive such a test.  On the other hand, for someone who is looking to receive conventional medical treatment, receiving this test probably won’t make much of a difference with regards to the treatment protocol.  Chances are you will be told to take antithyroid drugs or receive RAI regardless of whether you have a positive or negative radioactive iodine uptake test.

The same concept applies with someone who wants to follow a natural thyroid treatment protocol.  Most holistic doctors aren’t going to just rely on the conventional medical tests when devising a treatment plan.  And so for most people, receiving a radioactive iodine uptake test won’t have much of an impact as to what type of treatment they would receive.

Contraindications Of This Test

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t receive this test.  The reason is because while the small dosage of iodine isn’t enough to cause harm to an adult, it can cause problems with a fetus or baby.  If you’re not sure whether you are pregnant, but suspect you might be, then it’s best to hold off on this test.

In summary, the radioactive iodine uptake test is commonly given to those people with hyperthyroidism to determine if the person has Graves’ Disease.  Although this treatment method won’t obliterate the thyroid gland, it still does involve a small dosage of radiation.  As a result, while receiving this treatment shouldn’t cause much harm to the thyroid gland, because it does involve some radiation I wouldn’t recommend that everyone with hyperthyroidism receive this test.  The question you need to ask yourself is “will receiving this test affect the course of treatment?”.  If the answer is “yes”, then it might worth it to receive this test.  On the other hand, if the answer is “no”, which usually is the case, then it’s probably best not to receive this test.