Hypothyroidism versus hyperthyroidism: What are the signs and when to get tested?

The most common types of thyroid disorders include hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, but many adults are unaware of their condition.

Thyroid disease is rather common in adults. The most common types of thyroid disorders include hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and up to 60% of them are unaware of their condition.

“The thyroid may be the most blamed organ for symptoms. It’s because the thyroid impacts different aspects of your body, causing a variety of symptoms,” said Monalisa M. Tailor, M.D., internal medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates.

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland below the skin and muscles at the front of the neck. It affects many of the body’s organs and also can impact a person’s metabolism.

“Thyroid issues happen when the thyroid gland produces either too much or too little thyroid hormone,” said Dr. Tailor. “Some patients may not have any signs of  hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, while others may have noticed symptoms that should be shared with their provider.”

Hypothyroidism versus hyperthyroidism

Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland is underactive and does not produce enough thyroid hormone in the bloodstream, which causes the body to use up energy more slowly than it should.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:

  • Sluggishness
  • Depression
  • Dry skin or hair loss
  • Feeling cold
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor memory or trouble concentrating
  • Constipation
  • Facial puffiness 
  • Weight gain (even when not eating more or exercising less)
  • Irregular menstrual periods

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Hyperthyroidism happens when the thyroid is overactive and releases too much thyroid hormone into the bloodstream, causing the body to use up energy more quickly than it should.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Increased sweating
  • Bulging eyes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Weight loss
  • Bulge in the neck

When should you be tested for thyroid issues?

If you have any symptoms of a thyroid issue, make an appointment with your primary care provider. Blood tests can check thyroid hormone levels, and this screening can be performed during a routine physical. If your thyroid levels are abnormal, you may be referred to an endocrinologist who specializes in treating thyroid disorders.

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