It is important to understand the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. They are both conditions that affect the thyroid gland, but have to do with the levels going in two different directions, and therefore have two different forms of treatment.
The difference between the two is the level of hormone output. Hypothyroidism is known as an underactive thyroid and doesn’t make enough of the thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid and therefore makes too much of the hormone. There are different causes, side effects, and treatments between the two.
Hypothyroidism is relatively common and one of the main causes is Hashimoto’s disease, which is an autoimmune disease that involves the immune system creating antibodies that will destroy thyroid cells, and prevent them from making the hormone from the thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism can cause the entire metabolism of the body to slow down. Everything is slower, including the heart rate, the intestinal tract, and even heat production is lower.
Some of the side effects that a person may experience when they have been underactive thyroid include:
- Dry hair and skin
- Weight gain
- Muscle cramps
- Swelling in the corridor (front of the net)
- Decreased menstrual flow
The weight gain is a common aspect with hypothyroidism because of the fatigue and various other factors. The people who can force themselves to be active may only find that they gain a few pounds. However, many people experience such fatigue that they stop exercising, sleep longer hours, and change their routine so drastically that they gain more weight.
It is important for hypothyroidism to be treated so that the signs and symptoms are under control. They can also result in the bodily functions slowing to such a level that it can be life-threatening, and a person can experience significant depression.
Advanced hypothyroidism is also called Myxedema. While it is rare, it can be life-threatening because there is decreased breathing, low blood pressure, a decrease in the body’s temperature, unresponsiveness, and in some instances, a person has even slipped into a coma.
Hypothyroidism is most commonly found within middle-aged people and women, but it can develop in anyone, including infants. If a baby is born without a thyroid gland, they are going to exhibit some of the similar signs and symptoms, and potentially even a large protruding tongue, frequent choking, and yellowing of the skin as well as the eyes, showing signs of jaundice.
The good news is that there are treatments and drugs that can be taken in order to treat hypothyroidism so that a person can normalize their levels. The most common is an oral medication that will restore the hormone levels and reverse some of the signs and symptoms. Synthroid is the most commonly prescribed drug, and there are different levels based upon the levels that the blood tests say.
Once a person starts on the drugs, it will often only take one or two weeks in order to see some of the improvements, including feeling less fatigue and if a person begins to become more active, it can also reverse weight gain.
A doctor is usually going to check the level of TSH in the blood a few months after determining dosage to ensure that a person is receiving the current level. Too much of the hormone can also result in insomnia, shakiness, and even increased appetite. The goal is to experience no side effects and all, which is when a doctor will know that the correct dosage is being given.
Hyperthyroidism is commonly caused by a condition known as Graves’ disease. Many people will experience swelling within the front of their neck, which is known as a goiter. The eyes may also appear larger because of inflammation.
Hyperthyroidism is the exact opposite of hypothyroidism. In hypothyroidism, everything is slower. Hyperthyroidism has been compared to a race car engine. Everything is in overdrive and the body tends to have all of its functions sped up.
Some of the most common experiences experienced with hyperthyroidism include:
- Difficulty focusing
- Feeling hot
- Weight loss
- Loose bowels
- Heart palpitations
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Weight loss
- Menstrual problems
The weight loss associated with hyperthyroidism is not the good kind of weight loss. It is commonly associated with weak muscles and fatigue, so it isn’t desirable.
Similar to hypothyroidism, blood tests are going to be taken so that a doctor can determine the TSH levels in the blood. Additionally, if the test indicates that there is hyperthyroidism, additional tests may be ordered to help determine why it is overactive. This can include a radioactive iodine uptake test or a thyroid scan.
The treatment and drugs can vary based upon the reason as to why the thyroid is overactive. Much of it is going to depend upon the severity, as well as the age and physical condition of the person. Radioactive iodine can be given because it will cause the plans to shrink. There are also various anti-thyroid medications that can be taken, and the majority of symptoms will improve within 6 to 12 weeks. Beta blockers can also be given, and they are not going to reduce the thyroid level, but can help to prevent any heart palpitations.
Understanding the differences between hyperthyroidism in hypothyroidism are of the utmost importance because they have very different side effects and are treated very differently as well. The easiest way to remember is that the “hyper” version makes a person more hyper.