Thyroid gland: the difference between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
The thyroid is a relatively small gland found in the base of the neck, located just below the “Adam’s apple.” The thyroid produces hormones that travel through the blood and control the rate of many activities in your body, including how fast your heart beats and how quickly you burn calories.
In other words, the thyroid plays a large role in controlling your metabolism.
There are two main categories of thyroid disease: disorders of thyroid hormone production (too much or too little) and disorders of gland growth/nodule development. Thyroid issues are more common in women than men.
Thyroid nodules are very, very common. In fact, almost 50% of people over the age of 50 have at least one. The good news is that most of these nodules are not cancerous. Some people have goiters, or enlarged thyroid glands. Sometimes the goiter doesn’t cause any symptoms at all. Other times, however, the goiter can cause cosmetic concern, difficulty breathing or difficulty swallowing.
What many people don’t realize is that you can have nodules or goiters and still produce a normal amount of thyroid hormones. In other words, these disorders won’t show up in blood work.
In medicine, “hypo” means deficient or not enough. For example, hypoglycemia is a term for low blood sugar.
Hypothyroidism, then, is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. Inflammation and damage to the gland accounts for most cases of hypothyroidism, says the NIH. Symptoms vary from person to person, and if left untreated, they tend to worsen over time.
People with hypothyroidism may feel more sensitive to temperature changes. Individuals might also experience a number of physical effects, including constipation, fatigue, weakness, joint or muscle pain and unintentional weight gain. The condition can also affect mood, causing depression or memory problems.
Hypothyroidism is typically treated with thyroid replacement therapy. Different medications can imitate and replace the role of the thyroid hormone inside the body, making up for its natural lack. This treatment usually lasts for a patient’s entire life and dosage might change over time.
When the thyroid produces more thyroid hormones than the body needs, that is the definition of hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism Is Graves’ disease, a disorder where the body’s immune system stimulates the thyroid too much.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism usually begin slow, making them hard to notice. Over time an excessive metabolism may result in unwanted/unhealthy weight loss, rapid or irregular heartbeat, irritability, anxiety, trouble sleeping, increased sweating, muscle weakness and less frequent menstrual periods for females.
Hyperthyroidism treatment options include both medical and surgical options, depending on your specific situation. When thyroid removal surgery is performed, most of the thyroid is removed through an incision under the collarbone.
The Differences Between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
Hypothyroidism causes symptoms like slowed metabolism, tiredness, and weight gain. Having an underactive thyroid can decrease or slow down your bodily functions.
With hyperthyroidism, you may find yourself with more energy, as opposed to less. You may experience weight loss as opposed to weight gain. And you may feel anxious as opposed to depressed.
The most common difference between the two diseases relates to hormone levels. Hypothyroidism leads to a decrease in hormones. Hyperthyroidism leads to an increase in hormone production.
In the United States, hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism. However, it’s not uncommon to have an overactive thyroid and then an underactive thyroid, or vice versa. Finding a skilled doctor who specializes in the thyroid, typically an endocrinologist, is an important part of your treatment plan.