Thyroid Disease – The difference between Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism?

According to the American Thyroid Association  more than 12% of the population in the United States will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime, and approximately 20 million Americans currently have thyroid disease with most of them, approximately 60% of those people may be unaware they have it.

If you ever get confused between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, you’re not alone.  Many people know someone with thyroid disease but aren’t quite sure if they are ‘hyper’ or ‘hypo’.  We have an easy way for you to remember which is which:

Hyperthyroidism – means you have an overactive thyroid.
  • “Hyper”..means overactive, like when you are feeling hyperactive.”
Hypothyroidism – means you have an under-active thyroid.
  • “Hypo”  rhymes with “low”.

What is the thyroid and what does the thyroid do?

In the center of the lower part of your neck is a butterfly shaped gland called the thyroid. The thyroid gland controls your body metabolism, heart rate, nervous system, weight, body temperature controls, and breathing, as well as other functions within the body by creating hormones known as T3 and T4.  These hormones tell your body to use energy for different functions and how much.   The level of thyroid hormones circulating in your body is controlled by the pituitary gland, located just below your brain.  If your thyroid hormone level is low it will send thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) to your thyroid gland to tell it increase the production of T3 and/or T4 as needed.

What is Hypothyroidism?

It is when your thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, so your body metabolism is much slower than it should be. As much as 10% of women are thought to have some level of thyroid hormone deficiency,  and up to 10million Americans have some level of hypothyroidism.

What causes Hypothyroidism?

  • Thyroiditis – inflammation of the thyroid gland which causes a reduction in the hormone produced
  • Postpartum Thyroiditis – approximately 4-9% of women will have this temporary condition after giving birth.
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis –a hereditary disease of the immune system also called autoimmune thyroiditis.
  • Iodine deficiency – as many as 100million individuals around the world have this issue.  The thyroid uses iodine to produce hormones. Iodized salt has prevented iodine deficiency in most of the world.
  • Non-functioning Thyroid –  All newborn babies are given a blood test to check their thyroid function, as this condition affects approximately 1 in 4000 newborns.

What are Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?

Symptoms of hypothyroidism may vary from patient to patient, but these are some of the more common symptoms:

  • Intolerance to cold
  • Change in voice (gravelly or hoarse)
  • Dry skin and dry hair
  • Weight gain or inability to lose weight easily
  • Forgetfulness
  • Depression
  • Hair loss
  • Constipation
  • Frequent and/or heavy menstrual periods
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning of the outer edge of eyebrows
  • Muscle and/or tendon aches

What is Hyperthyroidism?

It is when the thyroid gland produces too much hormone causing your body to burn through energy faster than it ideally should.

What causes Hyperthyroidism?

There are several causes of hyperthyroidism including:

  • Grave’s Disease – Also known as diffuse toxic goiter (or enlarged thyroid gland) this is when the thyroid gland produces too much hormone and is overactive.
  • Nodules –  Small nodules inside the thyroid gland may be overactive. If several are overactive it is called a toxic multi-nodular goiter. If only one nodule is overactive it is  referred to as a toxic autonomously functioning thyroid nodule.
  • Thyroiditis –  Usually occurring after a woman gives birth, this condition is when the thyroid releases too many hormones for a few weeks or even a few months.
  • Too much iodine – Some medications may cause the thyroid to produce too much hormone (or too little).

What are Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?

  • Weight loss
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Enlarged Thyroid
  • Infrequent or light menstrual periods
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritability
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Vision problems or irritation of the eyes

Diagnosing and treatment for Thyroid Disease

If you or your doctors are concerned about your thyroid function, a simple test called a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) blood test will give you quick answers. In fact, it may even detect a problem with your thyroid levels before you even notice symptoms.

What to ask your doctor about Hypothyroidism

Your doctor and your pharmacist are there to work together for your ultimate wellness. Going to your doctor with a list of questions puts you in a better position to understand your condition and open a dialogue about the best treatment for your needs.  Here are some questions to ask your doctor:

  • What caused my hypothyroidism?
  • What do my blood test results mean?
  • What is my TSH level and what is my target TSH level?
  • How often should I have my blood tested?
  • How quickly can I expect to feel better?

Prescription Medication for Hypothyroidism

Your doctor will determine how much prescription medication for hypothyroidism you will need based on your blood tests.  Synthroid™, Eltroxin™, Armour Thyroid Tablets™, or ERFA Thyroid Tablets™ are  medications often prescribed for hypothyroidism.

Prescription Medication for Hyperthyroidism.

Again, based on your blood tests, your doctor will prescribe medication for your hyperthyroid condition.

To learn about what is in these medications, visit our information page What is the difference between ERFA™ and Armour™ Thyroid tablets?”    We also invite you to give our team here at Canada Online Health a phone call at 1-800-399-DRUG (3784).   We will be happy to discuss these medications and answer any questions you might have about this or any other of your prescription medications.

This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor.  It is not intended to be used as either a diagnoses or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation.  If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).

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