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:
- Rapid heart rate
- Hand tremors
- Brittle skin
- Weight loss
- Sleep problems
- Heat sensitivity
- Loose stools
- Irregular, lighter menstrual periods
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.
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.
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:
- Low body temperature
- Slow metabolism
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Thinning hair
- Reduced heart rate
- Irregular, heavier menstrual periods
- Stiff, painful joints and muscles
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.
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.
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.