Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are both thyroid disorders. The thyroid symptoms and the causes of these two conditions are varied. Thyroid glands produce hormones that are crucial for various bodily functions. The glands could be either overactive or underactive. When the glands are overactive, they secrete excess hormones that lead to hyperthyroidism, whereas when they are underactive, they secrete fewer hormones than the required level, which leads to hypothyroidism. There’s a lot we can know when we dig deeper into hypothyroid vs hyperthyroid.
Most people who have thyroid disorders are not aware of it. So, diagnosis is very important to get the condition treated before it gets complicated. Otherwise, every system in your body can get affected.
Hypothyroid vs Hyperthyroid
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are two conditions that are associated with thyroid disorders. The thyroid symptoms for these two conditions are different but sometimes symptoms may coexist. There will be enlargement of thyroid glands known as goitre in both cases. The causes and treatment for both disorders are, however, different.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid glands are not functioning normally or when the glands are removed due to medical reasons like cancer. This condition develops as age advances and is more common in women. Another common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease which is more prevalent in the U.S. Other causes of hypothyroidism are:
- Former radioiodine or surgical treatment for other thyroid diseases like thyroid cancer or hyperthyroidism
- Former radiation treatment for other cancers like neck cancer
- When the pituitary glands in the brain are affected
- Congenital hypothyroidism
- Certain medications like anti-epilepsy drugs
The risk of developing hypothyroidism is higher:
- In women
- If you are over 60 years of age
- If you have Sjogren’s syndrome, i.e., a disease wherein your eyes and mouth go dry
- When your joints are affected by rheumatoid arthritis
- If you have delivered a baby in the past six months
- If you are affected by pernicious anaemia, i.e., your body is unable to produce enough red blood cells due to vitamin B12 deficiency
- If you have type 1 diabetes
- If you have an autoimmune disease like lupus
Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
- Dry skin
- Intolerance to cold
- Weight gain
- Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles
- Thinning of hair
- Variation in heart rate
- Fertility issues in women
- Puffing of the face
Most times, the symptoms go unnoticed for years as hypothyroidism develops slowly.
Hypothyroidism during pregnancy can result in issues like preterm labour, high blood pressure throughout pregnancy, and miscarriage. It may hinder the baby’s growth and cause abnormalities. Untreated hypothyroidism can, in a few instances, result in a myxedema coma. This is a condition when your body’s processes slow down.
The treatment for hypothyroidism is medication to supplement the hormones that your thyroid glands can no longer produce. Every 6 to 8 weeks, you will have to undergo a blood test to check the levels of the thyroid hormone. The dosage will be changed after every blood test until the ideal dosage is determined. Hypothyroidism can be brought under control by consuming the medicines as per the dosage prescribed without any break.
You can be more susceptible to iodine’s negative side effects if you have Hashimoto’s disease or another sort of autoimmune thyroid illness. There are several hypothyroidism supplements available in the market that claim to support thyroid health but are generally not prescribed by physicians as they are not regulated by the FDA.
Graves’ disease is the most typical autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism in men, while women are still more prone to experience this condition.
When a healthy thyroid gland is accidentally attacked by the immune system and results in Graves’ disease, an excessive amount of thyroid hormone is produced. Though it can emerge at any age, it often appears between the ages of 30 and 50.
The other causes of hyperthyroidism include:
- Inflammation of the thyroid or thyroiditis, due to which the thyroid hormones stored in the thyroid gland tend to leak.
- Excess iodine. Iodine is found in seaweed, cough syrup, some medicines, and seaweed-based supplements. Too much consumption of these can aggravate the secretion of thyroid hormones.
- Consuming heavy doses of hypothyroidism medicines.
- Growth in your thyroid glands is referred to as thyroid nodules. These are not cancerous but may stimulate thyroid hormones and result in over secretion of thyroid hormones. These nodules are more common in older adults.
Some of the common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:
- Weakness in the muscles
- Irritability and nervousness
- Intolerance to heat
- Weight loss
- Enlarged thyroid glands or goitre cause swelling in the neck. You may develop breathing issues and difficulty swallowing.
- Mood swings
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism in adults over 60 are different from the ones younger than 60. They may experience a lack of appetite or may develop aloofness. These symptoms sometimes are misunderstood to be dementia or depression.
Hyperthyroidism treatment includes medication, thyroid surgery, and radioiodine therapy.
- Medication: Antithyroid medications, which reduce your thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormone, are among the medications for hyperthyroidism. Most likely, you’ll need to take the medications for one to two years. You might need to take the medications for a number of years in some circumstances. Although it is the simplest course of action, it frequently has short-term results.
Beta-blockers are medications that can lessen symptoms like tremors, a quick heartbeat, and anxiety. They can make you feel better until other therapies are adopted for better results.
- Radioiodine therapy: This is one effective hyperthyroidism treatment. It entails ingesting radioactive iodine orally as a liquid or pill. The thyroid gland’s cells that make thyroid hormones are gradually destroyed as a result. Other tissues in the body are unaffected. The development of hypothyroidism is a side effect of radioactive iodine treatment in almost everyone.
This happens as a result of the death of the cells that produce thyroid hormones. However, compared to hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism is less dangerous to one’s long-term health and is simpler to cure.
- Thyroid surgery: This is a recommended hyperthyroidism treatment in only specific cases. Especially for those with large goitres or expectant mothers who are unable to take antithyroid medications, it may be an alternative. You will require thyroid medications for the rest of your life if you have your thyroid completely removed. Some thyroid patients also require medication after having a portion of their thyroid removed.
If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to serious conditions like an irregular heartbeat that can lead to several cardiovascular issues and Graves’ ophthalmopathy that causes double vision, light sensitivity and eye pain. In rare cases, it could lead to vision loss as well.
Diagnosis of Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
Usually, when any of the aforementioned indications or symptoms appear, you will have to consult your physician. The next step is to have blood tests performed based on that information and a physical examination.
The best thyroid condition screening test is a blood test for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is high when your body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) and low when it produces too much. In the case of Graves’ illness or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, blood tests can also reveal antibody levels. Antibodies produced by the body to fight off foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria and blood antibodies may indicate that the thyroid is posing a threat to the body.
Your doctor might order a scan of your thyroid gland based on the results of those tests. A popular imaging technique is ultrasound, particularly for hyperthyroidism. Besides this, a radioactive iodine uptake test may also be recommended. The amount of radioactive iodine your thyroid absorbs from your blood after you ingest a small amount is determined by a radioactive iodine uptake test.
When the topic is about hypothyroid vs hyperthyroid, there will be differences in all respects. Be sure to get tested for these thyroid disorders even if you are not experiencing thyroid symptoms. Your health could be suffering without your knowledge. Even if you haven’t yet noticed any symptoms, you should still adhere to your doctor’s treatment recommendations. Before choosing one course of treatment, weigh all the advantages and disadvantages. The sooner you start with treatments for either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, the lesser will be any long-term damage.