Parents Want to Know: What’s the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Unexplainable symptoms like fatigue, hair loss, and weight loss or weight gain can leave anyone feeling anxious and frustrated. When you can’t pinpoint the way you’re feeling to a specific disorder or cause, it can be hard to know how to treat your symptoms. However, with the help of a physical exam, a blood test, and a medical opinion, you may be on your way to figuring out the mystery of your health. For many people, the pesky cause of otherwise unexplainable symptoms is thyroid disease.

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck that controls almost all of the metabolic processes in the body. It releases several important hormones that influence not only your metabolism, but temperature, energy level, heart rate, and growth and development as well. The crazy part? The thyroid influences every cell, tissue and organ in the body.

According to the American Thyroid Association, about 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Anyone can develop a thyroid disease, including infants and children, though it is most common among middle-aged or older women. For women, the chance of developing a thyroid problem is higher, as they are five to eight times more likely than men to develop a thyroid issue. Those numbers might be frightening, but today we’ll explore the differences between two of the more common thyroid-related disorders: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. These conditions can affect your quality of life in a variety of ways and last a lifetime, but the good news is, thyroid diseases can be well-managed through medical attention.

About Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough essential hormones. This is caused by either inflammation of the thyroid gland and cells are damaged or dead, or because part of or all of the thyroid was removed in past medical treatments, causing a deficiency of the essential hormones that your body desperately needs. Hypothyroidism can also appear as a result of an autoimmune disease, radiation therapy, certain medications, pregnancy, or iodine deficiency.

The symptoms of hypothyroidism usually develop slowly throughout several years, and are closely associated with symptoms of a slow metabolism. The symptoms you experience will depend on the severity of thyroid hormone deficiency. You may have just a few of the common symptoms, and different patients will experience different combinations of symptoms. In fact, in some cases, patients will experience subtle or no symptoms, causing hypothyroidism to go unnoticed.

Hypothyroidism can cause many health issues like obesity or heart disease if left untreated, so it’s important to pay attention to your body and speak with a medical professional if you start noticing symptoms.

Some common symptoms of Hypothyroidism include:

– Fatigue
– Weakness
– Sensitivity to cold
– Weight gain
– Dry skin
– Dry or thinning hair
– Constipation
– Slowed heart rate
– Muscle cramps and aches
– Abnormal menstrual cycle
– Impaired memory
Depression

About Hyperthyroidism

Now, on to hyperthyroidism. If you’ve gotten this far, you might be guessing that it’s the exact opposite of hypothyroidism, and that’s correct. Hyperthyroidism is caused by an overproduction of thyroid hormones, which causes the body’s processes including your metabolism and heart rate to speed up.

Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, is one of the most underdiagnosed endocrine conditions because of its subtle symptoms that are often attributed to other causes. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by a number of reasons. The most common is an autoimmune disorder called Grave’s Disease which results in an overproduction of thyroid hormones. Lumps or nodules in the thyroid gland can also create excess hormones. Hyperthyroidism can also be caused by thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid, due to a virus, autoimmune condition, or postpartum.

Some common symptoms of Hyperthyroidism include:

– Fatigue or muscle weakness
– Mood swings
– Nervousness or anxiety
Weight loss
– Rapid heart rate
– Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
Trouble sleeping
– Increased frequency of bowel movements
– Abnormal menstrual cycles
– Skin dryness
– Vision problems and eye irritation

Treatment

Thyroid diseases are extremely common and can be well-managed, but each patient is different and requires their own personalized treatment plan.

But treatment does exist, and options are usually effective and safe. For hypothyroidism, treatment options include thyroid hormone pills and other medications. Treatments for hyperthyroidism include antithyroid medications, radioactive iodine therapy, or surgery to remove part of, or all of, the thyroid.

When to Get Help

If you are exhibiting a number of the above symptoms without a concrete explanation, it might be time to talk to a health and wellness provider. 60 percent of people with a thyroid disease are unaware of it, but you don’t have to be one of them. Thyroid diseases can affect you both physically and mentally and have serious complications if left untreated, so finding the underlying root cause of your symptoms can get you one step closer to living a fuller life.

Looking for someone to help manage your hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism? Find a hyperthyroid specialist here. Find a hypothyroid specialist here.

Sources


  1. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/hypothyroidism-too-little-thyroid-hormone
  2. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/hyperthyroidism/hyperthyroidism-overview-overactive-thyroid
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284
  4. https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/press-room/

Kristen Luft is a digital marketer working on health-centered blog posts for Wellistic. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, snuggling her greyhound or chihuahua, or following the latest trends on Instagram.

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