Hypothyroidism vs Hyperthyroidism

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are two of the most common thyroid disorders, and though their names sound almost identical, the disorders themselves are very different. The easiest way to remember the difference is to recall that “hyper” means too much, like when they say someone is hyperactive, it means they have too much energy.

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in your neck just below the Adam’s apple. It’s part of the endocrine system and its primary function is to secrete a hormone that regulates your body’s growth and metabolism.

Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones. Symptoms vary from person to person, but often include fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, unexplained weight gain and a “puffy” face. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease. It’s important to note that while these symptoms may be related to hypothyroidism, they may also be caused by other problems. The best way to make a diagnosis of hypothyroidism is to have a simple blood test. Fortunately, treatment of hypothyroidism with synthetic thyroid hormone is usually simple, safe and effective.

Hyperthyroidism, conversely, is when your thyroid is over-producing hormones. Symptoms often include sudden weight loss despite a strong appetite, rapid or irregular heartbeat, increased appetite, and nervousness, just to name a few. You might notice that these symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of a number of other health problems, and indeed, hyperthyroidism can be difficult to diagnose at first. However, once properly diagnosed, most people respond well to hyperthyroidism treatments, which can include anti-thyroid medication, surgery, or small amounts of radioactive iodine.

Hopefully this helps clear up any confusion you had about these two common thyroid disorders. For more information on the thyroid and its disorders, visit columbiathyroidcenter.org