Hyperthyroidism vs hypothyroidism: The diseases are two extreme issues of the thyroid. Learn more about their differences here!
In this Article:
- The Function of the Thyroid
- Causes and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
- Causes and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
- Hyperthyroidism vs Hypothyroidism
- Diagnosis of Thyroid Disease
Hyperthyroidism vs Hypothyroidism: Know the Difference
The Function of the Thyroid
The hormones that your thyroid gives off keep the heart, brain, some organs, and your muscles maintained properly. The thyroid also helps your body use the energy you take in from the food you eat. When the thyroid does not work properly, your metabolism speeds up or slows down. If the thyroid does not put out enough of the thyroid hormones, you have hypothyroidism. On the other hand, too many thyroid hormones will result in hyperthyroidism.
Causes and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune disease and is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. The immune system makes antibodies that kill the thyroid cells, thus the gland isn’t able to make the thyroid hormone. If you have hypothyroidism, your metabolism slows down. Actually, everything slows down -- your heart rate, heat production, and intestinal digestion. Symptoms may include:
- Dry hair and skin
- Brittle nails
- Weight gain
- Muscle cramping
- Decreased menstrual flow
If you are able to force yourself to keep to a good exercise routine, the weight gain may not be significant. However, because you may also feel tired all the time, you may not exercise, which makes the weight gain worse.
There is still no cure for hypothyroidism. However, it can be managed with medications like Levothyroxine that help the thyroid produce the correct levels of hormones.
Causes and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
If you have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, there’s a good chance that you have an autoimmune disease known as Grave’s Disease. Or, your thyroid produces too much thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). It becomes enlarged – it’s then called goiter – and the inflammation causes your eyes to look bigger. Hyperthyroidism causes your metabolism to speed up. Symptoms of elevated thyroid levels may include:
- Feeling hot all of the time
- Having a hard time concentrating on one thing
- Racing thoughts
- Forgetting things
- A higher heart rate or even palpitations
- Weight loss due to muscle wasting
- Menstrual problems
Hyperthyroidism vs Hypothyroidism
While hyperthyroidism is easier to diagnose, it’s not as common as hypothyroidism. Only about 1 in 100 people have hyperthyroidism while 1 in 20 people suffer from hypothyroidism, according to Everyday Health. Thyroid disease is hereditary, and it’s usually women who get it. While either thyroid disease may happen at any point in life, it usually affects women over 60 years of age.
Additionally, if you have had or are having cancer treatments, you have a higher risk of developing either thyroid disease. Pregnancy could also cause either disease, though hypothyroidism is more common. It could take up to a year after delivery for your thyroid hormones to regulate. Women going through menopause are also at high risk for thyroid disease because of their fluctuating hormones.
Diagnosis of Thyroid Disease
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are diagnosed through the presence of symptoms. A blood test may also determine a diagnosis. You will most likely have to fast before the test so the results are more accurate. The blood test measures:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The pituitary gland in your brain releases this hormone. If the TSH result is high that means your pituitary gland is working harder because it is most likely trying to replace the hormones lost by the underactive thyroid, which is hypothyroidism. If the TSH result is low, you are probably getting too many hormones from the thyroid gland, which is hyperthyroidism.
- Free-thyroxine (T4)*
- Triiodothyronine (T3)*
*If the T4 and/or T3 are low, you may have hypothyroidism and if they are high, you may have hyperthyroidism.
A radioactive iodine uptake test combined with ultrasound may also be used to diagnose thyroid disease. You will be asked to swallow a capsule that contains radioiodine. If the thyroid is healthy, it uses just the amount of iodine it requires. However, if the thyroid uses too much iodine, hyperthyroidism is highly probable. Otherwise, it is hypothyroidism.
Levothyroxine is the common medication prescribed for hypothyroidism. Tapazole and beta-blockers are the drugs for hyperthyroidism. The latter may also be treated by surgery (referred to as thyroidectomy). Prescribed medications for thyroid disease should be taken throughout one's lifetime.
Still, confused with the difference between hyperthyroidism vs hypothyroidism? Learn more about your thyroid and hormones in the video below:
If you have any of the symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, seek medical assistance immediately. Management of thyroid problems is simpler and easier with early diagnosis. Complications are less likely, as well.
Do you know the difference between hyperthyroidism vs hypothyroidism now? If you have other questions about the two hormone conditions, post them below!