Memorial Health - March 18, 2019
by Dr. Ismary De Castro

Q: What’s the difference between hyperthyroid and hypothyroid?

A: As much as 9 percent of the population has thyroid problems. Thyroid hormones can affect the function of everything from your heart and lungs to your emotional well-being.

When the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, it is overactive (hyperthyroid). All of your major body systems are in overdrive, which can result in a host of unpleasant symptoms, from anxiety to diarrhea. Untreated, an overactive thyroid can eventually lead to congestive heart failure and be fatal.

When the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone, called hypothyroid, it is underactive. In this scenario, all of your major body systems function too slowly, resulting in symptoms ranging from weight gain to depression. Underactive thyroid, when left untreated in extreme cases, can eventually lead to a coma and even death.

Q: What are the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction?

A: Thyroid dysfunction can produce symptoms that can be associated with other medical conditions or lifestyle factors. However, if you are experiencing the following symptoms, you may need to see an endocrinologist for further testing.

Hypothyroid symptoms:

  • I'm always tired or have a lack energy.
  • My skin is dry or coarse.
  • My hair is dry or coarse.
  • I'm very sensitive to cold temperatures.
  • My periods are heavy and irregular.
  • My face is puffy.
  • I've gained weight unexpectedly.
  • I feel really down, maybe even depressed.
  • I'm experiencing muscle cramps or muscle pain and tenderness.
  • My heart rate is slower than normal.
  • I'm constipated.
  • I'm struggling with infertility.
  • I feel mentally slow or sluggish.
  • I have a goiter (swelling of the neck below the Adam's apple).
  • My libido has decreased.

Hyperthyroid symptoms:

  • I've lost weight unexpectedly.
  • I have lost weight despite an increase in appetite.
  • I feel irritable and nervous.
  • I feel weakness and tremors in my muscles.
  • My periods are irregular.
  • I have difficulty sleeping.
  • I don't see as clearly or my eyes are irritated.
  • I have a goiter (swelling of the neck below the Adam's apple).
  • I'm very sensitive to warm temperatures.
  • I have heart palpitations or rapid heartbeats.
  • I have more frequent bowel movements or diarrhea.
  • My blood pressure is high.
  • My heart rate is high.
  • I'm often sweaty.
  • My hair is thinning.

Q: What are the risk factors for thyroid disease?

A: There are few known risk factors for hypothyroidism, but studies suggest it may be more common in women, people over age 60, people with a family history of thyroid problems and those with a history of autoimmune disorders or thyroid problems.

Compared to the general population, hyperthyroidism is more common in people who have a family history of thyroid disorder.

Q: How is thyroid disease treated?

A: If you have symptoms that could be due to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Effective treatments range from medications and iodine treatments to surgery. The key is to recognize symptoms and seek treatment and diagnosis when appropriate, so that stress to the body is minimized.

Dr. Ismary De Castro is an endocrinologist who sees patients at Memorial Health University Physicians | Endocrinology Care. To schedule an appointment with her, call (912) 350-5909.

This content originally appeared on Sharecare.