Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are the two main types of thyroid diseases that affect a large number of people. Many of them are not even aware of the fact that they suffer from any of these conditions.
The thyroid is situated below the larynx, having a central location in the lower neck. It produces the thyroid hormones which are responsible for the proper functioning of the cells, organs or tissues in our bodies. These hormones regulate the body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and the way in which food becomes energy.
If the thyroid gland won’t function correctly, it will make a diminished or an increased amount of hormones, and this is translated into an overactive or underactive thyroid.
An underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism is a condition that caused by diminished activity in the thyroid. This means that there are not enough hormones produced by the thyroid gland, and this slows down the organism’s metabolic functions.
An overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism is triggered by an increase in the thyroid gland’s activity. It produces too many hormones, increasing the metabolic functions.
Underactive thyroid – symptoms
- Sudden weight gain
- Constant fatigue
- Indigestion and constipation
- Cold sensitivity
- Extremely dry skin
- Muscle pain and soreness
- Hair loss
- Poor concentration and memory
- High cholesterol
Overactive thyroid – symptoms
- Unexplained weight loss
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Feeling fatigued
- Protruding eyes
- Hand tremor
- Muscle weakness
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Changes in menstrual patterns
- Brittle hair
Causes of hypothyroidism
One of the main causes of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease, which is an autoimmune condition which makes the body create antibodies that attack and destroy thyroid cells and therefore the production of thyroid hormones.
Other causes include genetics, congenital hypothyroidism, a low-iodine diet, surgical removal of the thyroid, damage to the pituitary gland, thyroiditis or radiation exposure in cancer treatment.
If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to health complications such as enlarged thyroid gland, depression, heart problems, peripheral neuropathy, infertility, edema or birth defects.
Causes of hyperthyroidism
One of the main causes of hyperthyroidism is the Graves’s disease which is an autoimmune condition triggering an increase in the production of thyroid hormones. Other causes include inflammation of the thyroid, excess iodine intake, benign tumors of the thyroid, tumors of the ovaries or an excess intake of tetraiodothyronine through medication or diet.
If it is not kept under control, hyperthyroidism leads to several health conditions such as weak bones, heart problems, swollen skin, poor eyesight or thyrotoxic crisis.
How to treat an underactive thyroid?
Doctors usually prescribe levothyroxine, which are actually synthetic thyroid hormones. This medication can restore the adequate hormone levels. There are also alternative treatments based on coconut oil, fish oil, apple cider vinegar, ginger, kelp and Vitamin D.
How to treat an overactive thyroid?
For an overactive thyroid, doctors usually prescribe methimazole which prevents the gland from making excess hormones. Dietary changes can also help, such as eating foods rich in Vitamin D and calcium, sea vegetables and protein-based products.
If neither of these treatments works, your doctor would suggest removing the thyroid gland.