How to Identify the Symptoms of a Thyroid Disorder (Hyperthyroid and Hypothyroid)

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Statistics indicate that approximately 200 million on the planet have been diagnosed with some form of thyroid disorder. In 1980, the Thyroid Foundation of Canada was established as means of providing the public with information and support concerning thyroid disease. By recognizing the symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid, individuals have more knowledge when seeking medical intervention.

Thyroid and Disease

The gland lays at the base of the front of the neck and features one lobe on either side of the trachea, which gives the thyroid a shape similar to that of a butterfly. The pituitary gland releases thyroid stimulating hormone, which stimulates the gland to manufacture and release thyroxine and triiodothyronine also known as T4 and T3. The thyroid regulates all of the body's major functions, which is why when malfunction occurs, patients may experience a wide variety of symptoms.

The thyroid may become under active or overactive for many different reasons that include autoimmune disorders, heredity, iodine deficiencies, pregnancy, viruses, medication, radiation treatments or cancer. Hyperthyroid disorder occurs when the gland releases abnormally high levels of hormones, which puts body systems into overdrive. If left untreated, the condition may lead to heart failure. Symptoms of this form of disorder include:

• Unexplained weight loss
• Constantly feeling anxious or irritable
• Muscle weakness or uncontrollable tremors
Irregular menstruation
• Insomnia
• Visual disturbances
• Heat intolerance
• Heart palpitations and an increased heart rate
• Hypertension
• Diarrhea
• Profuse sweating
Thinning hair
• Swelling at the front of the neck

Hypothyroidism is the term for the condition that involves an insufficient amount of hormone release, which slows body processes down. Symptoms of this type of disorder include:

• Unusual fatigue despite getting adequate sleep
• Dry skin and hair
• Unusual hair loss
• Brittle nails
• Cold intolerance
• Lower than normal heart rate
• Low blood pressure
• Mental fogginess
Menstrual irregularities
• Infertility
• Loss of sexual desire
• Puffiness in the face
• Unexplained weight gain
• Muscle cramps or aching
• Swelling in the front of the neck

In the early stages of either hyper or hypothyroidism, the symptoms may go unnoticed or be misdiagnosed as patients often only have a few symptoms from the list. Correctly diagnosing the problem typically begins by providing a health care professional with a medical history and submitting to a physical examination. Blood tests involve evaluating the thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH and T4 levels. In hypothyroidism, the TSH may be normal or high with a lowered T4 level. In hyperthyroidism, T4 levels are higher than normal. Physicians may also recommend imaging studies to determine if the gland contains abnormal nodules. Treatment depends on the type and severity of the disorder.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "How to Identify the Symptoms of a Thyroid Disorder (Hyperthyroid and Hypothyroid)," in, February 18, 2016, (accessed March 23, 2023).