How to Tell the Difference between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism


How to Tell the Difference between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism



Your thyroid hormones process proteins, fats, and carbohydrates; regulate your body temperature; maintain healthy blood pressure; and stabilize your heart rate. If your thyroid malfunctions, it causes a chain reaction of symptoms throughout your body. About 20 million people in the United States suffer from thyroid disease, but it’s easy to misread the signs, so it often goes undiagnosed.

At Palmetto Endocrinology, we have extensive experience diagnosing and treating all types of thyroid disorders. In this article, we take a closer look at the two main categories of thyroid disease — hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism — to help you spot the signs and understand the differences.



When your thyroid, a small gland situated at the bottom front area of your neck, produces too many hormones, it’s called hyperthyroidism.

An overactive thyroid can lead to symptoms such as:

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, we can run blood tests to measure how much thyroxine and thyroid-stimulating hormone you’re producing, and we may also perform a nuclear thyroid scan to gather more pertinent information before we make a diagnosis.


Hyperthyroidism Causes

There are three main causes of hyperthyroidism — Graves’ disease, thyroiditis, and Plummer’s disease.

Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. This autoimmune disorder triggers the production of antibodies that stimulate an overproduction of the hormone thyroxine. Bulging eyes are a common symptom of Graves’ disease.

Thyroiditis is simply inflammation of your thyroid, and it often occurs in women during pregnancy or just after delivering or from a viral infection.

Plummer’s disease occurs when nodules develop on your thyroid gland causing enlargement and an overproduction of thyroxine.


Hyperthyroidism treatments

There are many effective treatments that can relieve your symptoms and keep you safe. Our team creates a personalized treatment plan that addresses your unique thyroid symptoms.

Often, medications are all you need to regulate your hormone production.  Somtimes surgery or radiation therpary is more appropriate.



Hypothyroidism is the opposite of hyperthyroidism, as it results in an underactive thyroid.

Common symptoms of insufficient thyroid hormones include:

With hypothyroidism, your body functions slow down, leading to weight gain, fatigue, and depression, compared to hyperthyroidism, which speeds things up and causes anxiety, increased energy, and weight loss.


Hypothyroidism Causes

An underproductive thyroid may be the result of several causes, including autoimmune diseases, a response to hyperthyroidism treatments, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery, pituitary gland disorders, and congenital conditions.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the most common cause of hypothyroidism, occurs when your immune system attacks your thyroid and causes it to underproduce.

Radiation therapy, especially if targeted at your head and neck, and other drugs can interfere with your thyroid’s ability to produce enough hormones. If you’ve been treated for hyperthyroidism and your body overreacts to the medication, it can lower your thyroid function and lead to hypothyroidism.

Iodine deficiency, rare pituitary gland disorders, and thyroid defects present at birth can also trigger low thyroid-stimulating hormones.


Hypothyroidism Treatments

Treatments for hypothyroidism are lifelong and typically involve taking a synthetic thyroid called levothyroxine to restore your hormone levels. As you achieve balanced hormones again, you should notice a reversal of the hypothyroidism effects.

Keep in mind that it may take a while for your body to readjust, so you may experience temporary sleep and appetite issues as well as minor heart palpitations.


Help for Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism

If you suspect you’re suffering from either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, schedule an appointment to meet our team at Palmetto Endocrinology. We are here to help.

Joseph W. Mathews, MD, FACP, FACE, ECNU, CCD Joseph Mathews, MD, FACP, FACE, ECNU, CCD Joseph W. Mathews M.D., a board certified Endocrinologist and Medical Director of Palmetto Endocrinology, was born and raised in South Carolina. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology from the College of Charleston, Cum Laude. He then achieved his M.D. at the Medical University of South Carolina where he also completed his residency in Internal Medicine and a Fellowship in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. Dr. Mathews is also a Fellow of both the American College of Endocrinology and the American College of Physicians, holds an Endocrine Certification in Neck Ultrasound (ECNU) and is a Certified Clinical Densitometrist (CCD). He has extensive experience performing ultrasound guided fine needle aspiration biopsies. His practice includes a range of specializations including prescribing and fitting patients with insulin pumps. Dr. Mathews' practice has drawn patients from out of state to benefit from his expertise in thyroid disorders, diabetes, cortisol problems and their Endocrine disorders.

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