Last Updated on July 3, 2023
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ located in the neck that regulates various bodily functions. When the thyroid gland malfunctions, it can lead to multiple thyroid disorders, with two of the most common conditions being hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Understanding the differences between Hypothyroidism vs Hyperthyroidism is essential for understanding the condition, proper diagnosis, treatment, and management.
Hypothyroidism vs Hyperthyroidism: The Differences
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are almost opposites of each other. The terms themselves are self-explanatory of the conditions. “Hypo” means less, while “hyper” means more. Hypothyroidism causes symptoms of slowed metabolism, tiredness, and weight gain. This means an underactive thyroid can decrease or slow down your bodily functions.
With hyperthyroidism, however, you may find yourself more energetic as opposed to less. One can experience weight loss as opposed to weight gain. It is also possible to feel anxious with hyperthyroidism as opposed to depressed.
The most common and apparent difference between the two diseases relates to the difference in hormone levels. The thyroid hormone decreases in hypothyroidism, while it increases in hyperthyroidism.
Below, we shall look into the differences between hypothyroidism vs hyperthyroidism in more detail.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
The following are typical symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Weight gain
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Changes in mood, like depression
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol levels
- Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
- Joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
Hypothyroidism symptoms are variable and depend on the severity of the body’s thyroid hormone deficiency. Initially, there may not be any visible or noticeable symptoms, so people may not know they have this condition until it has developed into an advanced stage. As some of these symptoms develop gradually, confusing them with signs of aging or stress can be easy. However, as the metabolism continues to slow due to this disorder, one can develop more evident problems.
People with hypothyroidism should seek treatment because, if left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause severe health problems like joint pain, infertility, and heart disease.
Continue reading about the symptoms of hyperthyroidism for a just hypothyroidism vs hyperthyroidism comparison.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
With hyperthyroidism, one can experience a wide array of symptoms, including:
- Unintentional weight loss (even with increased appetite)
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Anxiety, nervousness, or irritability
- Hand tremors
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Changes in bowel patterns
- An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
- Fatigue or sleeping difficulties
- Brittle hair
- Skin thinning
Hyperthyroidism may also put one at risk of Graves’ Ophthalmopathy, especially if someone smokes. This rare condition causes the eyes to bulge.
Signs and symptoms of Graves’ Ophthalmopathy include:
- Red, swollen, dry, or protruding eyes
- Excessive tearing or discomfort
- Light sensitivity
- Blurry or double vision
- Reduced eye movement
Hyperthyroidism symptoms can be easily mistaken for other health problems. This makes diagnosis a headache for healthcare providers. Diagnosis is more difficult in older adults as they can exhibit little to no symptoms, which is why learning the symptoms of hypothyroidism vs hyperthyroidism may help in diagnosis.
To fully compare hypothyroidism vs hyperthyroidism one must understand what causes both. Possible causes of hypothyroidism include:
- Hashimoto’s disease: Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease in which inflammation in the thyroid prevents it from producing thyroid hormones.
- Thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid: Thyroiditis, involves the inflammation of the thyroid gland. As a result of this inflammation, an excess of thyroid hormones is secreted into the bloodstream, causing thyrotoxicosis. Afterward, a deficiency of hormones develops.
- Congenital Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism that is present at birth is usually known as congenital hypothyroidism. Although rare, someone can be born without some or all parts of the thyroid gland.
- Surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid: Sometimes, to treat thyroid cancer or nodules, some or all aspects of the thyroid may need to undergo surgical removal.
- Radiation treatment of the thyroid: Radiation therapy can damage the thyroid cells and impair their ability to function.
- Certain medicines: Drugs such as amiodarone and lithium may trigger hypothyroidism in some people.
- Abnormal iodine levels: If your body does not get enough iodine from your food, it may not function properly. A deficiency of iodine can lead to hypothyroidism.
In comparison to hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism has fewer causes. One of the most common causes is heredity, while others include:
- Autoimmune disease: Graves’ disease represents 50–80% of hyperactive thyroid cases. Damage to the thyroid is usually caused by antibodies that activate the thyroid over time and lead to hormonal overproduction.
- Nodules: An abnormal growth of thyroid tissues can lead to hormonal overproduction.
- Thyroiditis: As previously mentioned, there is an initial release of hormones in thyroiditis which can result in temporary hyperthyroidism before the levels drop.
- Overmedication: Large quantities of medications like thyroxin, which people use to treat hypothyroidism, can also lead to hyperthyroidism.
- Abnormal iodine levels: A sudden intake of iodine in people with iodine deficiency can also temporarily cause hyperthyroidism.
Learning about the causes of both hypothyroidism vs hyperthyroidism can help us understand why these two similar conditions differ.
The aim of this blog was to provide general information to the reader about these conditions. Hypothyroidism vs hyperthyroidism is a comparison of two opposing thyroid disorders with different causes, symptoms, and treatments. Understanding the differences between these two conditions is important for an accurate diagnosis of each disease leading to appropriate management. If someone experiences the above symptoms, they should consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation of their condition so that personalized care can be sought. Taking control of one’s thyroid health can help improve well-being and symptomatic management, helping one lead a fulfilling life whether they have hypothyroidism vs hyperthyroidism.
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