Hyperthyroidism vs. Hypothyroidism

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the base of the neck that plays an important role in your body’s metabolism and development. The hormones the thyroid releases control many functions in the body. You can experience a variety of symptoms when the thyroid isn’t functioning properly, falling into one of two categories: hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

The thyroid creates thyroid hormone and releases it to all parts of your body through the bloodstream. These hormones affect everything from how fast your heart beats to the way your body burns calories.

A healthy thyroid makes the exact amount of hormone your body needs, producing more or less thyroid hormone as necessary. But if you have a thyroid disease, you may be getting too much or too little.

What Is Hyperthyroidism?

When your thyroid makes too much hormone, the condition is called hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid. When you have an overactive thyroid, some of your body’s functions speed up.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Eye problems, such as redness, irritation or bulging eyes
  • Feeling nervous, anxious or irritable
  • Feeling too warm
  • Fewer or lighter periods
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Trembling hands and fingers
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

Having an overactive thyroid can also put you at higher risk for osteoporosis.

What Is Hypothyroidism?

If your thyroid is not creating enough thyroid hormone, you have hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. This condition causes your metabolism to slow down. Signs of an underactive thyroid often come on gradually.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Feeling cold
  • Feeling very tired and sluggish
  • Heavy periods
  • Hoarse voice
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle weakness or pain
  • Puffiness in the face
  • Slow heart rate
  • Thinning hair
  • Weight gain

Older people who have an underactive thyroid can also develop problems with memory, as well as depression. Hypothyroidism can also lead to high LDL cholesterol, which can increase your risk for heart disease.

Diagnosis of Thyroid Disorder

A blood test can help your doctor determine if you have a thyroid disorder. The level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood can reveal whether your thyroid is underactive or overactive.

Another test, called a radioactive iodine uptake test, can help your doctor diagnose an overactive thyroid. This test involves swallowing a small amount of radioactive iodine in liquid or capsule form. Because your thyroid uses iodine to make hormones, a high amount means you have too much hormone.

Treatment for Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism

If you have hypothyroidism, your doctor will prescribe medication that replaces the thyroid hormone thyroxine. Most people need to take this medication for the rest of their lives.

For hyperthyroidism, several treatment options are available. These include:

  • Antithyroid drugs, which stop the thyroid from making hormones
  • Beta blockers, which prevent your body from being affected by thyroid hormones
  • Radioiodine, which kills the cells that make thyroid hormones
  • Surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid

Your doctor will determine the best course of treatment according to your age, the severity of the disease and your overall health.

If you are having symptoms of a thyroid disorder, visit the River’s Edge Direct Access Lab for a blood test. No appointment or referral is needed.


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