The thyroid, a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck, regulates the body’s metabolic processes. It controls your body temperature, heart rate, and how quickly you burn calories. However, when this gland doesn’t function correctly, it can lead to two main types of conditions: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. As the names imply, the primary difference between these conditions lies in the amount of thyroid hormone the gland produces. But to truly understand hypothyroidism vs. hyperthyroidism, it’s necessary to delve a little deeper.
In hypothyroidism, the prefix “hypo-” indicates that the thyroid gland is underactive, producing less thyroid hormone than the body needs. This underproduction slows metabolic processes, leading to various symptoms of hypothyroidism, including:
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Other causes may include certain medications, radiation therapy to the neck area, or surgical removal of the thyroid gland.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the “hyper-” in hyperthyroidism means the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This overproduction accelerates your body’s metabolism, leading to symptoms of hyperthyroidism that contrast with hypothyroidism, including:
- Rapid heart rate
- Brittle skin
- Weight loss
- Heat intolerance
- Increased appetite
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Hand tremors
An autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Other causes may include nodules or lumps in the thyroid gland, certain medications, or iodine consumption.
Hypothyroidism vs. Hyperthyroidism: Some Shared Symptoms
While many symptoms are opposites of each other, both thyroid conditions can lead to the same generalized symptoms, including:
- Changes in menstrual cycles
- Muscle weakness
- Issues with sleep
This overlap can sometimes make it challenging to diagnose hypothyroidism vs. hyperthyroidism based on symptoms alone, underscoring the importance of comprehensive diagnostics and blood testing.
Traditional Treatment Approaches for Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
Both conditions are treatable, typically with the intent of returning thyroid hormone levels back to normal. For hypothyroidism, treatment generally involves daily use of a synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine. For hyperthyroidism, treatments may include radioactive iodine, anti-thyroid medications, or, in severe cases, surgically removing part or all of the thyroid gland.
While these treatments are effective, they don’t address the underlying causes of thyroid dysfunctions, such as autoimmune responses or hormonal imbalances.
Consider a More Holistic Approach
Advanced Functional Medicine offers a unique, holistic approach to diagnosing and treating thyroid disorders. Our methods go beyond the symptoms to find the root cause of your thyroid imbalance. We strive to restore health and balance to your body using comprehensive diagnostic tests and personalized treatment plans.
If you or someone you know is struggling with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, call our San Diego functional medicine clinic at (858) 412-5744 or request an appointment online. Our team is ready to help guide you on your journey to optimal thyroid health.