Thyroid Disorders and the Elderly

January 2021

In honor of National Thyroid Awareness Month, we’re taking a deeper look at the ways thyroid disorders affect our older relatives and us. These disorders are common in the elderly and are associated with significant morbidity if left untreated. It is recommended to have regular testing after the age of 60.

COMMON THYROID DISORDERS

There are many different types of thyroid disorders, and they each require targeted treatments. Medications, surgery or radioactive therapy may all be treatments, depending on the type of disorder. Common thyroid disorders include:

– Hypothyroidism

– Hyperthyroidism

– Thyroid cancer

– Congenital hypothyroidism

– Asymptomatic autoimmune thyroiditis

– Goiters

– Thyroid nodules

HYPOTHYROIDISM

The most common cause of the disorders worldwide is iodine deficiency, which leads to goiter formation and hypothyroidism. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include (but are not limited to):

– A slowdown in metabolism

– Fatigue

– Weight gain

– Depression

Women are much more likely than men to develop hypothyroidism. This disease is also more common among people older than age 60.

HYPERTHYROIDISM

When the thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone, a person is said to be experiencing hyperthyroidism. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is the autoimmune condition known as Graves’ disease, where antibodies target the gland and cause it to speed up hormone production.

Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

– Excessive sweating

– Heat intolerance

– Increased number of bowel movements

– Tremors (usually fine shaking)

– Nervousness

– Agitation

– Rapid heart rate

– Weight loss

– Fatigue

– Decreased concentration

– Irregular/scant menstrual flow

However, in patients older than 70 years of age, the typical signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism may be absent.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above symptoms or suspects a disorder, please contact your doctor immediately. The sooner you diagnose the problem, the sooner you can return to your regular lifestyle.


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