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What's the Difference Between Overactive and Underactive Thyroid?

By HERWriter
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Overactive and Underactive Thyroid: What's the Difference? Adiano/Fotolia

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. It produces and distributes hormones that play a large role in many important functions. It helps with blood circulation, body temperature, bowel movements, brain activity, breathing, digestion and muscle control. So it’s no surprise that a thyroid disorder can cause problems all over the body.

The most common thyroid disorders are hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

What is hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid?

In medical terms, hypo means deficient. Hypothyroidism is caused by an underproduction of thyroid hormones. This is problematic as your body's energy production requires a certain amount of thyroid hormones.

With hypothyroidism, people can experience brittle nails, constipation, decreased menstrual flow, dry hair and skin, fatigue, goiter (swelling in the front of the neck), muscle cramps and weight gain, according to EverydayHealth.com. An underactive thyroid can also affect one’s mood, resulting in depression or memory problems.

The most common source of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease, also called Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Here, the immune system creates antibodies designed to destroy thyroid cells and prevent them from producing thyroid hormones.

Left untreated, hypothyroidism can raise cholesterol levels and make having a heart attack or stroke more likely. During pregnancy, untreated hypothyroidism can harm the baby, according to the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center on its website MYBWMC.org.

Treatment for hypothyroidism is typically thyroid replacement therapy. Medications emulate and replace the thyroid hormone’s many jobs, making up for the deficiency, wrote FoxNews.com. Hypothyroidism treatment usually lasts a lifetime.

What is hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid?

Hyper, in medical terms, means too much. Hyperthyroidism happens when the thyroid becomes overactive and produces too many hormones.

EverydayHealth.com wrote “think of hyperthyroidism as a racing car engine.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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