Hypo- or Hyperthyroidism: How to Tell the Difference
Most people know that thyroid disease is a possibility in their lives. Many, though, don’t understand that there are very distinct differences between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. If you think that you may be exhibiting systems of a malfunctioning thyroid, here’s how to know whether it’s underactive or overactive:
Hypothyroidism is a condition that involves the under activity of the thyroid gland. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
Do you laugh it off when you’re wearing a sweater when everyone else in the office is in short-sleeves? Do your friends call you a freeze baby? One of the symptoms of hypothyroidism is sensitivity to cold. This means that you may feel cold when it is warm or that cold things feel abnormally cold to the touch.
- Weight gain
Weight gain due to hypothyroidism is obvious. If you are gaining weight but there’s been no change in your diet, you may have an underactive thyroid. If the numbers on the scale are inching up steadily, take a good look at your lifestyle. If nothing has changed, you may want to request a blood test to check your thyroid function.
- Dry skin
Is your skin abnormally dry? Most people experience dry skin in the winter when the weather is dry; it’s completely normal. If, however, your skin is dry no matter the season and no matter how much lotion you use, it could be a symptom of thyroid disorder.
- Increased menstrual flow
Women’s menstrual flows can change as they age. If you’ve received a clean bill of health from your OB/GYN, don’t be surprised if your heavy flow causes your doctor to recommend a thyroid test.
- Muscle cramps
If you’ve recently taken up exercise, muscle cramping may be normal. If you’ve not changed your exercise routine and are experiencing frequent cramping of the legs, hands, feet and arms, you may have a problem with your thyroid.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition that occurs when your thyroid is overactive. The signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Increased perspiration
Unlike hypothyroidism that causes an extreme sensitivity to cold, hyperthyroidism can cause increased perspiration. If you sweat when others normally wouldn’t or sweat more than what would be considered normal when performing physical activities, have your thyroid checked out.
- Weight loss
Most people are happy when they lose a few pounds; many of us need it. If, however, you have a healthy appetite and are losing weight despite a normal or high caloric intake, the loss could be due to hyperthyroidism.
- Thinning skin
You’ve undoubtedly seen the skin of the elderly at one point or another. As we age, our skin becomes thinner and tears more easily. If you are young or middle-aged, your skin should still be thick and supple. An overactive thyroid can cause thinning of the skin, a propensity to bruise and easier tearing of the skin.
- Lighter menstrual flow
If your menstrual flow decreases dramatically, don’t take it as a necessarily good sign. While most women welcome a lighter flow, it could point to hyperthyroidism. If your lighter flow is accompanied by a decrease in the frequency of your menstrual periods, ask for your thyroid function to be checked.
- Muscle weakness
If you suddenly find it difficult to lift heavy objects or walk for several miles, you may have hyperthyroidism. The condition can cause muscle weakness, particularly in the arms and legs. If you aren’t able to perform the tasks that you once were, due to increasing muscle weakness, speak with your doctor.
When your thyroid is functioning properly, you feel well-rested, strong and lively. When your thyroid is underactive or overactive, you may find that your muscles, wakefulness and vitality are affected. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor about having your thyroid function tested.
Karen Alton is a writer for healthtestingcenters.com. If you have any of the above mentioned symptoms they can test your thyroid levels with a blood test to determine if the thyroid is functioning properly.