There are certain things that people may experience, thinking that they are a regular part of life — such as constantly being tired, weight fluctuations, and memory problems. And while it’s true that these are common occurrences throughout the years, it’s also true that, when taken into context with other symptoms, they may be signs that you are experiencing thyroid issues. But, how can you learn to recognize them? What does the thyroid do anyway? And, what’s the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism?
What’s the thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck. It’s approximately two inches long and it’s part of the body’s endocrine system — a group of glands that produce hormones regulating many of your body’s functions. Specifically, the thyroid regulates:
- Heart rate
- Body temperature
What is hypothyroidism?
When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, the condition is called hypothyroidism. When a person suffers from hypothyroidism, your heart rate slows down, you gain weight, and you’ll experience chronic constipation. Hypothyroidism is also known as having an underactive thyroid.
There are several causes of hypothyroidism — most of them being underlying health conditions. These include:
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Grave’s disease
Hypothyroidism can also be the result of radiation therapy when treating cancers that are located on the head and/or neck. The condition can develop even years after treatment has been completed. In addition, it could be the result of thyroid surgery — especially when a portion of the thyroid is removed. When this occurs, your doctor will prescribe taking thyroid medications for the rest of your life to regulate your hormones.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
The symptoms of hypothyroidism vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the condition. The most common ones include:
- Slower heart rate
- Weight gain
- Difficulties concentrating
- Swelling of the face
- Chronic constipation
- Getting tired easily
- Dry skin
- Muscle cramps
- Hoarse voice
- Brittle nails
- Joint pain
What is hyperthyroidism?
On the other end of the spectrum is hyperthyroidism — also known as an overactive thyroid. This occurs when the thyroid releases too many hormones, which results in a rapid heart rate, weight loss, and diarrhea. The most common causes of hyperthyroidism include:
- Benign tumors of the thyroid
- Tumors in the ovaries or testicles
- Inflammation of the thyroid
- Excess iodine
- High intake of tetraiodothyronine — which is an ingredient in certain dietary supplements and medications
If the condition is mild enough, your doctor may recommend a conservative approach to treatment, such as increasing your calcium intake. This is because hyperthyroidism can decrease your bone density. In addition, you may be recommended to do regular physical exercise, as physical activity improves your cardiovascular health — which, in turn, helps regulate thyroid hormones.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism
One of the biggest problems with hyperthyroidism is that its symptoms are similar to those of other conditions — and there’s a wide variety of them. This can sometimes make it difficult to diagnose. The most common ones include
- Irregular heartbeats
- Unusual sweating
- Protruding eyes
- Sleeping difficulties
- Muscle weakness
- Swelling at the base of the neck
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Heart palpitations
- Sensitivity to heat
- Increased appetite
- Unintended weight loss
- Thinning skin
- Thinning hair
Since thyroid conditions can cause so many symptoms, the only way to know for sure if you are suffering from them is by getting a test done. This may include a blood test for thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), a cholesterol test, triglyceride test, or an imaging test — such as ultrasounds, CT, MRI, or thyroid scan.
If You Are Having Thyroid Issues, Nurse Practitioners of Florida Can Help
At Nurse Practitioners of Florida, we have a dedicated team of certified nurse practitioners who have an unwavering commitment to providing you with care and compassion. When you call any of our locations, you will be greeted by a live person who’s ready to offer acute medical care as well as preventive measures — including flu vaccines. And, above everything else, you will be treated like family.
If you need assistance, call us or fill out our online contact form.