What’s The Difference Between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism?

underactive thyroid

The thyroid is a small gland that rests in the middle of the lower neck, just below the Adam’s apple. The primary function of the thyroid gland is to control the body’s metabolism, which is the rate at which cells perform duties essential to life. 

When the thyroid gland can’t make enough hormones to keep your metabolism running at a normal rate, the condition is called hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism can present at any age, but the risk increases as you get older. Women are five to eight times more likely than men to develop hypothyroidism and the most common symptoms are weight gain, tiredness and slowed metabolism. Currently, there isn’t a cure for hypothyroidism, but it can be treated with medications.

On the other end of the spectrum, hyperthyroidism happens when the body makes too much of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine, making the thyroid overactive. The symptoms most commonly experienced from hyperthyroidism include a fast heartbeat, increased appetite, anxiety, sensitivity to heat, and sudden weight loss. Hyperthyroidism can be treated with medications or surgery. If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause bone loss or an irregular heartbeat.

What Is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland can’t produce enough of the hormones needed to keep your metabolism running at the normal speed. Low production of the thyroid hormone affects the day-to-day function of every cell in the body. With hypothyroidism, chemical functions within the cell slow down, which means everything in the body slows down.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism Include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Brittle nails
  • Slowing of bowels and constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Muscle cramps
  • Irregular, infrequent or heavier than normal menstrual periods
  • Forgetfulness
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Depression
  • Hoarse voice
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling of joints
  • Muscle weakness, aches or stiffness

Common Causes of Hypothyroidism Include:

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder
  • Genetics
  • Low-iodine diet
  • Radiation exposure from cancer treatment
  • Certain medications used to treat cancer, heart problems, and psychiatric conditions
  • Surgical removal of thyroid

What Is Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, which causes the body to use energy faster than it should. In other words, everything in the body speeds up. Having an overactive thyroid results in a massive surplus of the thyroid hormone, which accelerates all chemical functions in the cells.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism Include:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Heart failure
  • Weight loss
  • Tremor
  • Bulging eyes or a fullness in the front of the neck
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Seizures
  • Heart disease

Common Causes of Hyperthyroidism Include:

  • Graves disease, an autoimmune disorder, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.
  • The development of a lump or nodule (or multiple nodules) in the thyroid gland that produces excess hormones.
  • Certain medications
  • Viral infections

Who’s Most Likely to Develop Thyroid Problems

Thyroid problems can happen to anyone at any age, but there are a few risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing thyroid issues such as:

  • Being female
  • Having recently been pregnant
  • Being 60 or older
  • Family history of thyroid or autoimmune disease
  • Personal history of thyroid problems or surgery
  • Having an autoimmune disease

Contact Baptist Health to Learn More

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms described above, talk to your doctor. If you have additional questions about hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, contact the Baptist Health team to schedule an appointment.

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