Thyroid disease is a common health condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is estimated that many people with thyroid problems are not aware that they have this condition. Thyroid problems can affect every body system, so early diagnosis and treatment of this condition are very important. Here are the two common thyroid disorders: hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
People may experience both conditions, but hypothyroidism is slightly more common compared to hyperthyroidism.
The thyroid gland
The thyroid is a type of gland present in front of your neck, and this is related to the endocrine system, which is responsible for controlling body hormones. The thyroid hormones are responsible for the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, as well as maintaining your blood pressure (BP), body temperature, and heartbeat.
It is common to develop thyroid disease, and many people inherit it. Women are more likely to develop this condition, but the cause is unclear.
How does hypothyroidism differ from hyperthyroidism?
A hyperthyroidism state refers to a thyroid gland that produces too much thyroid hormone (overactive thyroid), and a hypothyroidism state refers to a thyroid gland that produces less than enough thyroid hormone (underactive thyroid). Signs and symptoms of these two conditions are usually different, and however, they can sometimes overlap. For instance, an enlarged thyroid gland, known as a goitre, occurs in both cases. Even the causes and treatment options for both conditions are very different.
The following symptoms are often associated with hyperthyroidism:
- Losing weight
- Hand tremor
- Feeling nervous
- A fast heartbeat
- Sleep problems
- Brittle skin
- Weakness of the muscles
- Mensuration problems
Hyperthyroidism is most commonly caused by Graves’ disease. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the thyroid hormone is attacked by your immune system as it perceives the hormones as a foreign body.
The disease tends to increase the size of the thyroid, which releases too much thyroid hormone. Patients with Graves’ disease may experience symptoms like bulging eyes as a result of swelling.
Below are some other causes of hyperthyroidism:
- Toxic nodular goitre – a condition in which small masses grow within the thyroid
- Thyroiditis – Inflammation of the thyroid gland as a result of a virus.
- Postpartum thyroiditis – thyroid that occurs after pregnancy
- Consuming excess thyroid hormone
The following symptoms are often associated with hypothyroidism:
- Sensitivity to cold
- Gaining weight
- Itchy skin & dry skin
- Memory issues
Hypothyroidism commonly occurs when your thyroid gland is not working properly or has been removed or damaged due to illness (such as cancer). Women and the elderly are more likely to develop this disorder. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – this is an autoimmune disorder that can cause hypothyroidism.
Other causes of hypothyroidism include:
- Previously undergone radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment or surgical treatment for hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer, or any other thyroid disease.
- Radiation treatment for head and neck cancer
- Diseases that affect the pituitary gland in your brain like Sheehan’s syndrome
- Congenital hypothyroidism (present at birth or congenital disability)
- Certain medications like amiodarone, lithium, and drugs used to treat epilepsy can also cause hypothyroidism.
Is one more dangerous or worse than the other?
This is not always true. Both the conditions can be equally dangerous, and “if left the conditions untreated, hypothyroidism might result in loss of consciousness and put your life at risk (death)” and hyperthyroidism can cause heart problems like atrial fibrillation. However, people experience both conditions, but hypothyroidism is more prevalent than hyperthyroidism.
These two conditions might cause problems during pregnancy due to hormonal fluctuations. Both hypo- and hyper- thyroid disease can create complications that can affect both mother and baby. Women with thyroid disease should have their thyroid levels tested more often during pregnancy since they may require medication or dose changes.
Are hyperthyroidism & hypothyroidism permanent?
Hyperthyroidism does not have to be permanent. Doctors often suggest removing your thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) if the condition recurs when you stop taking medication or if the medication causes side effects. Hyperthyroidism is more likely to be treated with surgery and radioactive iodine. However, these treatments may lead to hypothyroidism, which requires a daily dose of medication.
Hypothyroidism is a chronic condition; probably, you may need to take medication throughout your life. The condition varies from person to person, so consult an expert doctor so that they can evaluate your condition and suggest appropriate treatment.
Dr Venugopal Pareek, a renowned doctor for thyroid treatment in Hyderabad. He has more than 15 years of experience in treating thyroid problems.