The human body is remarkably complex and involves a synergy of numerous body organs to function properly. Among the little-known organs is the thyroid, found just below the Adam’s apple. It is tiny but it plays a major role in the body. Its function is to synthesize iodine to produce thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) hormones, which are then used to control the metabolism within the body.
A region of the brain known as the hypothalamus is responsible for keeping track of the body’s needs and accommodating those needs. It then sends signals to the pituitary glands, which then stimulates the thyroid to produce more or less T4 and T3.
Just like other body organs, it can experience problems too, and this is going to affect how your body metabolism works. Problems with the thyroid can either be hyperthyroidism when the thyroid is overactive or hypothyroidism, when the thyroid is underactive. So how do these two conditions differ from one another?
When a person has hyperthyroidism, their thyroid produces too much T4 and T3 hormones, and this accelerates the body’s metabolism rate. Normally, the thyroid is supposed to produce increased levels of T3 and T4 when the body is active such as during a physical activity, but hyperthyroidism keeps the thyroid hormones consistently high even when not needed. This then causes various symptoms such as:
- nervousness, irritability, anxiety, and trembling hands
- sweating and feeling hot
- loss of weight if the condition lasts for an extended time
- changes in the bowel movements
- problems with menstruation
All these symptoms are the result of excess energy in the body that has no direct use for.
Hyperthyroidism can have many different causes, although it is often caused by Grave’s disease. It is an incurable autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid to be overstimulated. Other causes of hyperthyroidism can include thyroiditis, which is an infection of the thyroid glands that leads to the swelling of the glands.
The treatment of hyperthyroidism will depend on the cause of the problem, and certain causes like thyroiditis can be cured to stop hyperthyroidism from happening. However, if hyperthyroidism is caused by Grave’s disease, the affected individual can only manage the condition and learn to live with it.
The thyroid can also have an opposite problem, wherein the thyroid does not produce enough T3 and T4 hormones. As a result, the body’s metabolism rate is lowered and it cannot sustain regular physical activities. Someone suffering from hypothyroidism will often experience:
- weight gain in the long run
- reduced heart rate
- muscle cramps due to insufficient supply of oxygen by the heart
- decreased menstrual flow
- goiter (a swelling on the front of the neck)
Thyroiditis can cause an opposite result to hyperthyroidism, instead causing the thyroid glands to be underactive. It can also arise after someone suffering from hyperthyroidism and had surgery to remove parts of the thyroid. The depleted thyroid will be unable to produce sufficient amounts of T3 and T4 hormones, leading to hypothyroidism.
The treatment for hypothyroidism is done by providing supplements for the thyroid hormones. These will provide sufficient levels of T3 and T4 hormones, regulating the body’s metabolism rate.
- Hyperthyroidism is a medical disease affecting the thyroid gland and is characterized by an overproduction of the thyroid hormones.
- Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is characterized by a lower production of the thyroid hormones.
- Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are both more common among women than men.