The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the front of your neck – just below the voice box (larynx). As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid is responsible for the production and release of hormones – more specifically triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
With that said, the thyroid doesn’t do this alone. The pituitary gland is responsible for producing a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). When released, TSH tells the thyroid gland it’s time to produce more thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), which it does with the help of iodine, vitamin A, Selenium and Zinc.
So, what do thyroid hormones do?
Thyroid hormones have a number of roles once released into the bloodstream. For example, they regulate body temperature, heart rate, metabolism, bone health, body weight, breathing, energy expenditure, the central nervous system (CNS), muscle control, and so much more.
Unfortunately, not everyone’s thyroid gland functions properly and thyroid disorders are common – such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism – are more common than you’d think. Don’t worry, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about the two conditions and how they differ.
What Is Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)?
Hyperthyroidism, also known as an overactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This can lead to a number of unwanted and unexpected symptoms that could have a negative impact on your quality of life, especially if not treated properly.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), hyperthyroidism affects around 1% of Americans aged 12 years or older every year. If not treated properly and in a timely manner, it could result in a number of health conditions.
Some of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism include Grave’s disease, overactive thyroid nodules, thyroiditis (inflammation), high iodine levels, too much thyroid medicine, and more. It’s more common in women than in men and anyone above the age of 60 is at risk.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
There are a number of tests and labs that your doctor can order to diagnose hyperthyroidism and check thyroid hormone levels, but it’s usually the symptoms and warning signs that a doctor or patient notices first. After analyzing the symptoms and undergoing several tests, your doctor will arrive at the diagnosis.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common hyperthyroidism symptoms:
- Fast heartbeat
- Feeling of anxiety
- Itchy or red skin
- Thinning hair or hair loss
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequently feeling hot
- Enlarged thyroid gland
Since early detection is often the best prevention, understanding these symptoms can go a long way in setting you up for a successful treatment. If you start to notice any of the symptoms above, don’t expect your symptoms to just go away on their own. Schedule an appointment with your doctor right away to discuss possible causes.
What Is Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)?
Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, is the exact opposite of its counterpart. Instead of the thyroid overworking itself, the thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone. As you can likely imagine, this can disrupt a number of essential roles and functions in the body.
According to the NIDDK, hypothyroidism affects nearly 5% of Americans aged 12 years or older. While a lot of those cases are minor, that doesn’t mean it can’t have a negative impact on your body and doesn’t mean it should go ignored. If anything, it should be monitored over time.
Some of the most common causes of hypothyroidism include Hashimoto’s disease, thyroiditis (inflammation), congenital hypothyroidism, Nodules, partial thyroid removal surgery (thyroidectomy), radiation treatment of the thyroid, and certain medications – among other causes.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Much like hypothyroidism, your doctor can perform a number of tests and labs to determine the overall function and health of your thyroid – but it’s the symptoms that spark the initial concern. With that said, it’s common for symptoms to appear months and even years after the fact.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common hypothyroidism symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue
- Depression or mood changes
- Dry skin and brittle nails
- Irregular period (women)
- Yellowish hue to the skin
- Unexplained weight gain
- Difficulty focusing or cloudy memory
If you can relate to these symptoms, I recommend that you take our Thyroid quiz. The Thyroid Quiz will take you through a series of questions that will assess your risk for thyroid disease. If you score poorly on this quiz, it’s best to follow up with Thyroid blood testing. Learn more about Thyroid blood testing here.
contact your local physician and let them know how you’re feeling. It might not always mean you’re suffering from thyroid disease, but it never hurts to be certain – especially considering how important the thyroid is.
Treatment Options for Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
As we learned above, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are two completely different conditions, despite concerning the same organ and sounding eerily similar. With that said, it’s no surprise that treatment options will differ depending on the person and the condition they have.
The main goal behind hyperthyroidism treatment is to slow down the production of thyroid hormone – which often requires finding the root cause of the problem. Treatment usually involves a combination of lifestyle changes, anti-inflammatory diet, and in some cases medication.
On the other hand, the goal behind hypothyroidism treatment is to normalize the production of thyroid hormone by increasing levels in the bloodstream. While there are many reasons for underachieve thyroid, Your Functional Medicine doctor will help uncover your root cause. When it comes to thyroid disorders, It becomes critical to understand if the underlying cause is rooted in an autoimmune disorder such as Hashimotos. If you have Hashimotos, identifying your immune system triggers will go along way in helping support and stabilizing your immune system. Some possible immune triggers include Leaky Gut, bacterial infections, Gut dysbiosis, environmental chemicals and inflammation. If you have or suspect Hashimotos, a comprehensive thyroid panel that evaluates all of your thyroid markers is an important first step in uncovering your Root Cause.
When to See a Doctor About Your Thyroid Gland
Since it’s normal for patients not to notice any symptoms of thyroid problems for months or even years, it’s more important than ever to schedule bloodwork with your doctor. Many times early intervention is the key.
With that said, you should never hesitate to book an appointment with your doctor the moment you start to experience potential symptoms of thyroid problems. The earlier you reach out for help, the earlier your doctor can detect the issue, diagnose the problem, and eventually treat it.
Contact Dr. Hagmeyer to Learn More!
Your thyroid plays an important role in the overall health and function of the human body, but many people are at risk of thyroid problems that can be detrimental to their quality of life. If this sounds like you, I want to help. Contact my office today for a free 15-minute consultation!