Hypothyroidism Vs. Hyperthyroidism

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism sound similar, as they both affect the thyroid gland (a gland in your neck/throat). However, these conditions are opposites.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid does not produce enough of the hormone used for energy use by the body. The risk of contracting this condition generally increases with age. Older women are affected most, and infants are rarely affected. If an infant has hypothyroidism and is not treated, they may end up with brain damage. Newborns are now tested for the condition in each state.

A teenager with hypothyroidism will probably look younger than their real age, but with treatment they will end up looking like others their age. Untreated hypothyroidism in adults can lead to fluid around the heart, and an increase in cholesterol and triglycerides.

Hypothyroidism may be caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is the body’s immune system attacking the thyroid gland. Other causes include problems with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, viral or bacterial infections, medications like lithium carbonate, or one may be simply born with it.

Adult symptoms of hypothyroidism include brittle nails, dry skin, coarse thinning hair, slow body movements and speech, intolerance to cold, or memory problems, among others.

The most common treatment for hypothyroidism is hormone therapy. Treatment is life long, and individuals take a synthetic thyroid hormone known as T4. Before T4 became common, dessicated thyroid, from animals, was used.

Conversely, hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is too active. This condition may cause fast weight loss, excessive sweat, fast heartbeat, or nervousness/moodiness.

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s disease. This disease also causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland. The thyroid responds by becoming over productive. Another cause may be small growths on the thyroid.

Additional symptoms include shaky hands, fine soft hair that begins falling out, and more bowel movements than you would normally have.

Hyperthyroidism can be treated with beta-blockers, which blocks effects of the condition. This method treats symptoms, not the condition. Anti-thyroid medications are another form of treatment; they stop the thyroid gland from being productive. If anti-thyroid medications are stopped, the condition may come back. Other treatments include radioactive iodine treatment, which kills thyroid cells, and surgery to remove part of the thyroid.

These conditions obviously affect the same part of the human body, but have very different side effects. Once a diagnosis has been made and one is on treatment, chances are good that things will be ok. Both conditions are very treatable.

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