Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland situated in the neck, which is responsible for almost all metabolic processes of the body. Thyroid hormones dominate the functioning of the brain, muscles, heart, and of other bodily systems. Though it is the same gland, an underactive or an overactive thyroid can lead to various conditions that present with distinct symptoms.
Understand the difference
The overall hormonal output of the thyroid gland determines the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. In hyperthyroidism, the gland is deficient in secreting the thyroid hormone required for optimum functioning. In hyperthyroidism, the gland becomes overactive. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition frequently affecting women than men, in which antibodies are produced against the thyroid hormone. Grave’s disease is the most common form of hyperthyroidism that leads to an enlarged thyroid called a goiter.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism:
Underproduction of the thyroid hormone leads to hypothyroidism (increased TSH level). Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism that destroys the gland by producing antibodies against the tissues. Thyroiditis may also be caused due to a viral infection. A diet deficient in iodine is another cause of hypothyroidism. Certain radiation drugs, medications for hyperthyroidism, thyroid surgery can also lead to hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain or difficulty in losing weight
- Dry skin
- Puffy face
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Decreased menstrual flow and change in menstrual cycle
- Hair loss
- Swelling in the neck (goiter)
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism
During hyperthyroidism, there is an over secretion of thyroid hormones that disrupts metabolic control of the body and reduces TSH levels below normal.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Increase in appetite
- Loss of weight
- Intolerance to heat
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Frequent bowel movements
- Protrusion of eye
- Sleep irregularities
- Enlarged gland
Both these conditions need medical intervention from an endocrinologist or a thyroid specialist. Unfortunately, there is no cure for hypothyroidism and patients need to rely on external thyroid hormone supplements like Eltroxin, etc. Hyperthyroidism needs to be treated with medications or radiation therapy before it can lead to a complicated condition called a thyroid storm.
Ensure you follow the medications religiously, as the thyroid regulates numerous other glands of the body and can hamper their functioning too!