Hypothyroidism vs. Hyperthyroidism: What’s The Difference?

Female checking her thyroid gland with her hands

Millions of Americans are affected by thyroid disease each year. The thyroid is a small gland that sits at the base of the neck below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid is important in regulating metabolic activities in almost all the tissues in the body, but some thyroids can be overactive or underactive. Hypothyroidism is caused by a low-functioning thyroid while hyperthyroidism causes the thyroid gland to become overactive and produce too much hormone. Both of these issues have negative effects on the body, and should be treated. Find out what the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism is, and what treatment looks like with this guide!

 

Functions Of The Thyroid

Our bodies are amazing organisms and can perform many different functions, from digestion to breathing to healing. One of the most important organs in our bodies, the thyroid, plays an essential role in regulating metabolic activities throughout the tissues of the body, such as heat and energy production. The thyroid is a small gland that sits at the base of the neck, close to the Adam’s apple. This gland has an important role as it influences how we think and feel. The thyroid’s primary role is to control the body’s metabolism by producing the hormones T4 and T3. These hormones tell the body’s cells how much energy to use to keep the body functioning at a satisfactory rate. The pituitary gland monitors the amount of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream and if there are high/low levels of hormone, it will use its own hormone, TSH, to tell the thyroid what to do. Other roles that the thyroid performs includes stimulating nerve growth in the brain and nervous system, influences how the heart pumps, affects the way the liver breaks down toxins, reduces cholesterol and activates growth in children.

 

Unfortunately, more and more people are developing thyroid disorders each year, with an estimated 27 million Americans affected to date. Women are more likely to develop thyroid disorders than men, and likely 13 million Americans are currently suffering from undiagnosed thyroid disorders. The thyroid gland becomes dysfunctional by either making too much hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little hormone (hypothyroidism). Both of these conditions affect how your body feels, and can be quite debilitating if left untreated.

 

Hypothyroidism

Of the two, hypothyroidism is the most common disorder that Americans suffer from. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone, increasing your likelihood of fatigue, unexplained weight gain, joint pain and infertility. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include dry skin and hair, heavy menstrual periods, forgetfulness and sensitivity to cold. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is autoimmune disease in which the body produces antibodies to parts of the gland but the gland is unable to produce enough hormones. This disorder is called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and is on the rise in the U.S. Iodine deficiencies also influence your likelihood of developing hypothyroidism as the thyroid uses iodine to produce hormones. Women who have recently given birth can develop postpartum thyroiditis but this is usually temporary. Fortunately, hypothyroidism can be diagnosed through a simple blood test and oral replacement hormones, plus an improved diet, are used to treat it.

 

Hyperthyroidism

Although less common than hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism occurs as the thyroid becomes overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include sudden weight loss, irregular heartbeat, bowel and digestive problems, insomnia, hair loss, muscle weakness and irritability. Hyperthyroidism is known to be caused by Graves’ disease, excessive iodine levels and growths/nodules on the thyroid gland. Infections from viruses are also known to cause temporary hyperthyroidism until the body heals. Treatment for hyperthyroidism typically includes anti-thyroid medications to decrease hormone production. Sometimes beta blockers are prescribed to control certain symptoms, like rapid heart rate, or steroids to help with inflammation. Anti-thyroid drugs are typically prescribed for six months to a year, but if the gland continues to produce too much hormone then treatment with radioactive iodine could be used to permanently destroy the gland. Surgery isn’t recommended, but may be necessary if medication cannot be tolerated or if the gland becomes too enlarged, blocking off the airway.

 

Get Tested TodayWoman getting an ultrasound of her thyroid by a female doctor

If something feels off in your body or you think you may have a thyroid disorder, Balanced Well-Being Healthcare can help! By evaluating your adrenal glands, hormone levels in your blood and imaging of your thyroid, we can correctly diagnose whether you are experiencing hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism and get a treatment plan started for you. Our team of experienced professionals can help you get to the root of your problems and improve your overall wellness and happiness. Call our office today at (970) 631-8286 to schedule a consultation and get your health back!