WASHINGTON — First Lady Barbara Bush will undergo treatment with radioactive iodine today at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to destroy her thyroid gland, which is producing excess amounts of hormones, her spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Mrs. Bush is expected to lose normal function of the gland in two to three months and then will have to take daily medication to maintain adequate hormone levels, a statement from her office said.
The radiation procedure, an alternative to surgery, is standard treatment for Mrs. Bush's recently diagnosed condition, known as Graves disease, and has no major side effects, said Anna Perez, the First Lady's press secretary.
Will Stay Two Hours
After ingesting radioactive iodine in an oral solution, she will remain at the hospital for about two hours for monitoring, Perez said.
Mrs. Bush consulted doctors last month because of swelling and irritation in her eyes, causing tears. The disease also caused an 18-pound weight loss in recent months.
For several weeks, Mrs. Bush has been treated with methimazole, a drug that blocks production of excess hormones in the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck.
Perez said the use of drugs was an interim therapy and destruction of the thyroid through radiation was a more permanent treatment.
"She's feeling great. She's feeling just fine," Perez said. She said the First Lady is still experiencing some problem with tears but that the condition is improved.
The "anti-thyroid" drug like the one given to Mrs. Bush usually brings the disorder under control, according to Dr. John Nicoloff, a professor of medicine at USC.