senior woman at doctor's checkup

Learn the basics of thyroid disease in seniors and how it may affect the body.

While there are many great benefits of aging, there is also a downside. Our bodies grow weaker, unable to function the same as when we were younger, and we begin to be more prone to developing health conditions, such as thyroid disease. 

Thyroid disease in seniors affects how the thyroid produces hormones that control the body’s metabolic rate. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck that produces hormones that control how the body uses energy. The hormones control your body’s important functions, and the hormones affect almost every organ in the body. Some examples include: issues with the heart, breathing, weight, and moods. 

Two types of thyroid disease are:

Hypothyroidism – is caused by underproduction of thyroid hormones and results in a low metabolic rate. 

Hyperthyroidism – is caused by increased metabolism when the thyroid produces too many hormones. 

Hypothyroidism is more common in seniors but is difficult to identify because the symptoms occur over a longer period of time and because seniors with thyroid disease may have just a couple symptoms. Symptoms vary greatly depending on the deficiency of hormone levels. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include: brittle hair and nails, fatigue, high cholesterol levels, swelling in joints, constipation, weight gain, dry skin, and increased sensitivity to cold. Females over the age of 60 and those who have a family history of thyroid disease have a higher chance of developing hypothyroidism. 

Causes:

  • Iodine deficiency
  • Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Treatment of hyperthyroidism

Treatment 

Daily use of a synthetic thyroid hormone can help to restore hormone levels and reverse the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. Soon after treatment, you should start to feel better.

Hyperthyroidism is also difficult to diagnose because some symptoms are indicative of other health conditions. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include: rapid heartbeat, anxiety and irritability, increased appetite, increased sensitivity to heat, skin thinning, fine brittle hair, difficulty sleeping, muscle weakness, and tremor. The risk of hyperthyroidism is higher in those who have a family member with thyroid disease or having Graves’ disease and Thyroiditis. 

Causes

  • Extreme amount of thyroid hormone medicine
  • Overactive thyroid nodules
  • Graves’ disease
  • Large amount of iodine 
  • Noncancerous tumor of pituitary gland
  • Thyroiditis

Treatment

There are many options available for treatment such as: anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine, and beta blockers. Treatment time varies depending on the cause and can take up to days or weeks.

Diagnosis

Thyroid disease can be difficult to diagnose because it shares symptoms often associated with aging or with many other health conditions. To determine if symptoms are related to thyroid disease, doctors use blood tests, physical examinations, or ultrasounds.

Naturally, our bodies go through changes as we age. If you experience a significant difference in how you feel or experience symptoms as stated above, contact your doctor for guidance. AnswerCare’s compassionate caregivers are available to help individuals with thyroid disease with customizable caregiving services including: meal planning and preparation, medication reminders, transportation to doctors’ appointments, and more. Contact us at 855.213.1511 to learn about how our solutions for home care in Canton and the surrounding areas can help someone you love live an enriching and independent life at home.