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July 27, 2021
4 min. read

Comparing Hypothyroidism vs. Hyperthyroidism

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While the symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are very different, they both affect the thyroid and can be both painful and frustrating at times. But with proper care from a physician and a manageable treatment program, however, you can live a relatively normal life.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a small gland located in the front of your neck that wraps around your trachea. It is somewhat shaped like a butterfly, small in the center with a pair of wing-like shapes that extend around your windpipe. Glands like the thyroid have specific functions, generating and releasing hormones that assist our bodies’ vital functions. The thyroid releases specific hormones that work to maintain proper metabolism, which is how your body converts food into energy.

thyroid

Why is metabolism important?

The thyroid’s main function in your body is to control and release hormones that manage your entire metabolism. This is important because your metabolism is how your body processes the nutrients you consume and converts them into energy. This energy is utilized throughout your body to operate different systems and ensure proper functionality. Akin to combustion in an engine, your thyroid takes the fuel and turns it into power.

What is thyroid disease?

Thyroid disease is a medical disorder that creates a hindrance in your thyroid from generating the proper amount of hormones. Normally your thyroid creates the proper amount of hormones to maintain the functions of the body. But if the thyroid gland generates too many hormones, the body can deplete energy too fast. This disorder is called hyperthyroidism. When this occurs, it can cause fatigue. It can also cause a feeling of nervousness, rapid heartbeat, and possible weight loss. However, if the thyroid doesn’t generate enough hormones, it’s called hypothyroidism. This can cause fatigue from the lack of energy, an inability to tolerate cold temperatures, and weight gain.

Several conditions can cause these disorders. They can also appear in the genes of families and be passed down through generations.

patient provider

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a common disorder that affects 4.6 percent of the population in the US In hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland doesn’t generate enough hormones to provide enough energy to operate your body, so your metabolism slows down. This can lead to sluggishness and weight gain.

A disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. This disorder causes the body to attack its own immune system. If untreated, it can cause the thyroid to stop producing hormones at the proper level, which can then lead to hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease, and tends to occur more often in women than in men.

Currently, there is no cure for hypothyroidism. However, there are several treatments to medicate the symptoms of this disease. The goal is to restore proper hormone levels, improve the overall function of the thyroid, and allow you to live a normal, healthy life.

Hyperthyroidism

In hyperthyroidism, the body creates an overabundance of thyroid hormones. The specific hormones triiodothyronine and thyroxine burn calories and cause symptoms such as sudden weight loss, feelings of anxiety, rapid heartbeat, and sensitivity to warmer temperatures.

Hyperthyroidism

There are three ways in which hyperthyroidism is known to occur:

  • Graves’ disease: An autoimmune condition, Graves’ disease is a common cause of hyperthyroidism that’s linked with extreme stress (either emotional or physical) pregnancy and smoking. It’s managed through thyroid medication and by avoiding caffeine although the condition is generally chronic.
  • A thyroid nodule: Normally benign they can cause the thyroid to increase in size, or create too much of the hormone, thyroxine (also known as T4 hormone)
  • Thyroiditis: An inflammation of the thyroid, this condition is often caused by pregnancy. It can be a short-term condition although it can involve pain or discomfort.

Treatment with medication, surgery, and radioactive iodine are some of the options offered for the treatment of hyperthyroidism. Without treatment, it can possibly lead to an irregular heartbeat and even bone deterioration. Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can both be hereditary as well.

The Differences Between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism

Suffering from hypothyroidism decreases bodily function and slows everything down to an unhealthy level. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are potential weight gain, slow metabolism, and an overall feeling of fatigue. In contrast, hyperthyroidism can provide you with too much energy, which can lead to nervous feelings and anxiety. Instead of gaining weight, you’ll lose it too fast.

In short, hormone production increases with hyperthyroidism and decreases with hypothyroidism.

thyroid management

Many Thyroid Conditions are Managed with Medication

While suffering from a thyroid disorder can be a lifelong disease that needs to be managed on a regular basis, there are medications available that can help. These will need to be prescribed and administered daily. Having an endocrinologist is a crucial component of a thyroid treatment plan, because they will be able to monitor your medications during treatment over time.

While It may take time to find the right treatment to manage your hormone levels,the good news is many thyroid conditions are manageable and with the proper diagnosis many of these symptoms can be managed if not completely cured.

Sources: Thyroid Disease: Causes, Risks Factors & Testing What’s the Difference Between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism? Hypothyroidism: Symptoms & Causes

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