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Hyper and Hypothyroidism: What You Should Know

Perhaps you’ve heard the name of both of these conditions, but maybe you’re unfamiliar with the difference between the two and why it even matters to your health to begin with. Not only can we bring you up to speed, but if you suspect that you’re dealing with either of these conditions, we’ve also got the endocrinology team that can help!

The thyroid, although tiny, has big responsibilities!
The thyroid is a small gland in the front of your neck that is responsible for the secretion of hormones. Sometimes when people hear the word “hormones” they automatically think of emotions, but hormones help maintain everything from the brain and heart, to muscles and other organs. In a nutshell, hormones are chemicals that help different parts of the body communicate with one another by sending signals to organs, tissues and cells. Hormones secreted by the thyroid specifically have an impact on how well your body uses energy (i.e. your metabolism and body temperature). It might surprise you to know that the hormones secreted by the thyroid actually affect the function of every organ!

What’s the difference between the two?
The easiest way to remember the difference is to think of what the prefixes “hyper” and “hypo” mean. Hyper means over/in excess, whereas hypo means under/below. So if you have hyperthyroidism, your thyroid is making too much of the thyroid hormone and your metabolism is running like a cheetah. If you have hypothyroidism, you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and your thyroid isn’t producing enough, so you have a metabolism that’s slowly creeping along like a little turtle.

Hyperthyroidism is often caused by:

  • Graves disease
  • Swollen thyroid
  • Thyroid nodules

As for hypothyroidism, your risk increases with age and women are three times more likely than men to have it. Hypothyroidism is a result of your immune system fighting your thyroid gland, which causes inflammation and the production of fewer hormones. Causes can include:

  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Genetics
  • Low-iodine diet
  • Certain medications or cancer treatments

Being that hyperthyroidism results in everything moving really fast, the symptoms of this condition will reflect that. You might experience things like:

  • Sweating and feeling hot
  • Problems sleeping
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Fatigue
  • Elevated heart rate/palpitations
  • Anxiety/nervousness
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Weight loss

With hypothyroidism, to put it simply, everything slows down so the symptoms are practically the opposite of what someone with hyperthyroidism will experience. These symptoms include things like:

  • Cold sensitivity
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Slow heart rate
  • Dry skin/hair
  • Muscle cramps
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Swelling of the thyroid gland

Interestingly enough, both conditions result in fatigue, but for different reasons. Hypothyroidism causes fatigue because you’re underproducing, so you’re not getting the hormones that you need in order for your body to reach normal performance levels. You’re operating below the bar. With hyperthyroidism, you’re fatigued because everything is running on overdrive. Like a car, you can only drive with the pedal to the metal for so long before burning out.

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, we recommend that you make an appointment with Dr. Abacan or Tara Jock, PA-C at Oaklawn Medical Group – Endocrinology. They can perform the appropriate testing and inform you of your options. Early diagnosis and intervention is important as it can help make your treatment more successful. If left untreated, either condition can result in serious health problems.

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