We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Radioactive Iodine?

By Emma Lloyd
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

As a constituent of the thyroid hormones which regulate metabolism, iodine plays an important biological role in the body. Radioactive iodine is a form of iodine which is used to treat hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland becomes overactive. This type of iodine is also used in the treatment of thyroid cancer. In both cases, therapeutic iodine may be administered in pill form, or as a tasteless liquid.

Radioactive iodine therapy is an effective, safe, and simple treatment for both hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer. The two main aspects of this treatment that make it so effective are its simplicity and safety. Just one dose is needed as a therapy for hyperthyroidism, making it an extremely efficient treatment. In terms of radiation therapy in general, radioactive iodine treatment is safe and has few side effects. This is because iodine is only used by the thyroid gland, and is not stored in other parts of the body.

Iodine forms the basis of an effective radiation treatment because the thyroid gland absorbs iodine from the bloodstream. Radioactive iodine is used in the same way as non-radioactive iodine by the thyroid. The only difference is that the radioactive type emits electrons. When radioactive therapeutic iodine is absorbed by the thyroid gland, the electrons it emits disrupt normal cellular function and reduce the amount of thyroid hormone which is produced. Therefore, the activity of an overactive thyroid gland is reduced to more normal levels.

Radioactive therapeutic iodine works in a similar fashion in the treatment of thyroid cancer. The iodine concentrates in the thyroid gland, where it kills off cancer cells. This treatment is usually a secondary therapy used after thyroidectomy surgery to remove the thyroid gland. After surgery is complete, therapeutic iodine is given to ensure any remaining cancer cells are killed.

Because treatment is highly targeted, even the most common side effects of radioactive iodine are relatively rare. One possible side effect is nausea, which may linger for several hours after treatment is administered, and can be reduced by avoiding food for two or three hours before and after treatment. The throat may be sore for a few days; this can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication. Much more rarely, the salivary glands may become swollen, due to the excess iodine present in the system.

Precautions should be taken following radioactive iodine to ensure that no susceptible individuals are exposed to radiation. First, contact with children and pregnant women should be minimized, and close contact avoided entirely. Utensils, dishes, and good should not be shared. Contact with the patient’s body fluids, including urine, sweat, saliva, and tears, must be prevented. In addition, women who are breast feeding must stop doing so. These precautions should be taken for up to two weeks, or as recommended by a physician.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.