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Overactive thyroid & underactive thyroid – symptoms and causes

There are many people around the world who are suffering from thyroid problems. There are two types of thyroid disease. The first one is known as hyperthyroidism and the second one is known as hypothyroidism.

Overactive thyroid (also known as hyperthyroidism): An overactive thyroid can cause a wide range of possible symptoms, although it is unlikely you will experience of them. The symptoms of this condition can develop suddenly or gradually. For some people they can be relative mild while for others they can be severe and they can affect their lives. [1]

Common symptoms:

Symptoms of an overactive thyroid

  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Itchiness
  • Persistent thirst
  • Needing to pee more often than usual
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Hyperactivity – you may find it hard to stay still and feel full of nervous energy
  • Nervousness, anxiety and irritability

Common signs: Here are the most common signs of an overactive thyroid [1]:

  • Eye problems, such as redness, dryness or vision problems
  • Weight loss – often despite an increased appetite
  • Patchy hair loss or thinning
  • A raised, itchy rash which is known as hives (urticaria)
  • Loose nails
  • Red palms of your hands
  • Warm skin and excessive sweating
  • Twitching or trembling
  • An irregular and/or unusually fast heart rate (palpitations)
  • A swelling in your neck caused by an enlarged thyroid gland (goitre)

Causes for an overactive thyroid

When your thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormones, then you have a condition which is known as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). This condition results in a high level of thyroid hormones which are known as T3 (also known as triiodothyronine) and T4 (also known as thyroxine. The thyroid can become overactive for many reasons. Here are the most common causes for hyperthyroidism [1]:

  • Graves’ disease [2]
  • Thyroid nodules
  • Medications
  • Other causes: thyroid cancer, thyroiditis, a pituitary adenoma and high levels of a substance called human chronic gonadotrophin in the body

Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism): There are many symptoms of hypothyroidism which are the same as those of other conditions so this condition can be easily confused for something else. Usually the symptoms of this condition are developing slowly and many times people do not realize that they have a medical problem for several years. [3]

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism: Here are the most common symptoms of this condition [3]:

  • Irregular periods or heavy periods
  • Pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Loss of libido (sex drive)
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry and scaly skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle aches and weakness
  • Slow movements and thoughts
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Being sensitive to cold
  • Tiredness

Elderly people with an underactive thyroid may develop depression and memory problems [4]. Children who suffer from this condition may experience slower growth and development. Teenagers may start with their puberty earlier than normal. If you have some of the mentioned symptoms, then you should talk with your doctor to make a test for an underactive thyroid.

overactive thyroid

Causes for underactive thyroid: When your thyroid gland does not produce enough of the hormone thyroxine (which is also known as T4), then you have an underactive thyroid. Most cases of hypothyroidism are caused by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland and damaging it or it can happen as a result of treatments for an overactive thyroid and thyroid cancer. You should speak with your doctor or specialist if you are concerned that some medication which you are taking may be affecting your thyroid hormone levels. Here are the most common causes for hypothyroidism:

  • Immune system [5]
  • Previous thyroid treatment

Less common causes: This thyroid condition has been linked to some medications (lithium, amiodarone, interferons) used to treat other conditions or some viral infections.


[1] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). 2016. Retrieved from

[2] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Graves’ disease. 2017. Retrieved from

[3] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid). 2016. Retrieved from

[4] Bensenor IM, Olmos RD, Lotufo PA. Hypothyroidism in the elderly: diagnosis and management. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2012;7:97–111.

[5] Saranac L, Zivanovic S, Bjelakovic B, et al. Why is the thyroid so prone to autoimmune disease? Hormone Research in Paediatrics. 2011;75:157–65.

Dr. Emil Sarsath (aka) Vijila, a licensed naturopathic doctor (BSMS) who always ensures his patients receive compassionate, and individualized care. He has extensive experience in primary care, digestive health, mental health, nervous system disorder and more.Area of Expertise – Naturopathic Medicine, Whole Foods-based Nutrition, Siddha, Panchakarma.She is always available through [email protected]


  1. […] Thyroid disorders: A thyroid disorder is another possible but rare cause for the irregular menstruation. Thyroid gland is found in the neck. This gland is producing hormones which maintain the body’s metabolism. This is meant for the chemical processes which your body is using to turn the food into energy. Your doctor may test you for thyroid problems by taking a blood test to check the levels of thyroid hormones that are found in your blood. […]


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