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Hyperthyroidism vs. Hypothyroidism: What’s the Difference?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. Though small in size, this gland serves a big purpose in many of our body’s functions. In a previous blog, we took an in-depth look at the thyroid and how it helps keep our body functioning at an optimal level.

Today we’re shifting our focus to two conditions that can plague the thyroid so that you can be aware of the symptoms and know what to look for if your body is trying to tell you something.

Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid produces tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) – the two primary hormones that control how our body’s cells use energy. When a person has hyperthyroidism, their body produces too much T4, T3 or both. In layman’s terms, this means that the thyroid gland is working in overdrive and creating more hormones than the body can process. With hyperthyroidism, every body function begins to speed up, which increases the body’s metabolic rate. This increase becomes evident in symptoms such as:

  • Bulging eyes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Hair loss
  • Hand tremors
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Hair loss

There are other signs that could mean that a person has developed hyperthyroidism. These signs, however, require immediate medical attention:

  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid/irregular heart rate
  • Shortness of breath

Hypothyroidism

Conversely, when a person is suffering from hypothyroidism, their body is lacking the amount of thyroid hormones needed to help the body perform at an optimal level.

Because the thyroid is essentially the metabolism’s control center, someone with hypothyroidism will encounter slower-than-usual body functions.

Various factors can cause hypothyroidism. Sometimes the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid, or the thyroid gland becomes inflamed, decreasing or prohibiting the gland’s ability to produce T3 and T4. Other times, hypothyroidism can result from surgery to treat another issue. In this instance, the thyroid is irradiated or removed, rendering it unable to perform its normal hormone-production functions.

Because hypothyroidism slows the body’s metabolic rate, other functions of the body will slow as well, as evidenced by many of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • Abnormal menstrual cycles (in women)
  • Constipation
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression
  • Dry hair
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Memory loss
  • Muscular aches and cramps
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain or inability to lose weight

Diagnosis of thyroid disease is often as simple as a blood test. If you believe that you or your loved one is suffering from either condition, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician for a professional diagnosis.

Sources:

http://www.thyroid.org/hyperthyroidism/

http://www.healthline.com/desktop-article/hyperthyroidism#Diagnosis4

https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/hypothyroidism-too-little-thyroid-hormone

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