Hypothyroidism vs. hyperthyroidism 

While both conditions affect the thyroid, hypo- and hyperthyroidism have very different effects on the body. The thyroid may be a small gland, but it produces hormones that the brain, heart, stomach and organs need to function. When your thyroid doesn't work properly, it can have a serious effect on the rest of your body's systems, according to Everyday Health.
The difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism is the output of hormones. Hypothyroidism means your thyroid isn't making enough hormones, whereas hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid makes too many hormones. 
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid is underactive -- more specifically, the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of certain hormones, upsetting the normal balance of chemical reactions in the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a variety of causes and symptoms for hypothyroidism.
Risk factors and causes
You're at risk for hypothyroidism if you fit any of these categories:
- Woman older than age 60
- Autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, a chronic inflammatory condition
- Family history of thyroid disease
- Treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications
- Had radiation to your neck or upper chest
- Had thyroid surgery (partial thyroidectomy)
- Been pregnant or delivered a baby in the past six months

Signs and symptoms
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Constipation
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Hoarseness
- Weak muscles
- Higher blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Decreased heart rate
- Depression
- Memory impairment
Doctors usually turn to the standard treatment of the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine. This medication is taken orally daily to restore adequate hormone levels and reverse the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. It may take time to figure out what dosage is right for you, and you will work with your doctor to determine the best treatment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, hyperthyroidism is a condition where your thyroid produces too much of the hormone called thyroxine. This can accelerate your body's metabolism, causing sudden weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, sweating and nervousness or irritability.
Risk factors and causes
Hyperthyroidism is actually caused by a number of conditions including Graves' disease, toxic adenoma, Plummer's disease (toxic multinodular goiter) and thyroiditis, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other risk factors to be aware of are:
- Graves' disease tends to run in families and is more common in women.
- If another member of your family has a thyroid condition, talk with your doctor about what this may mean for your health.
Signs and symptoms
Hyperthyroidism can mimic other health issues, which is why it is difficult for doctors to diagnose. But there are signs and symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, that you should look for and address with your doctor if you recognize:
- Sudden weight loss, even when your appetite grows and you eat more 
- Rapid heartbeat 
- Increased appetite
- Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
- Tremor — usually in your hands and fingers
- Sweating
- Changes in menstrual patterns
- More sensitive to heat
- Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter) -- may appear as swelling at base of neck
- Fatigue, muscle weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Skin thinning
- Fine, brittle hair
Older adults are more likely to have no signs or very subtle symptoms, and medications to treat high blood pressure and other conditions may also mask the signs of hyperthyroidism.
Treatment plans are very individualized and depend on your age, physicality, the underlying cause of the hyperthyroidism, personal preference and the severity of your disorder. Some treatments, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:
- Radioactive iodine, which is taken orally and shrinks your thyroid gland
- Antithyroid medications, which work to prevent your thyroid gland from producing excess amounts of hormones
- Beta blockers, which don't treat hyperthyroidism but will help with heart palpitations
- Surgery, which involves removing parts of your thyroid, but usually as a last resort. Often surgery is used with pregnant women who can't tolerate antithyroid drugs and don't want or can't have radioactive iodine therapy.

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