While there are many great things about getting older, we also become more susceptible to certain health conditions as our bodies age. 

One condition seniors have the potential to develop is thyroid disease, which affects the body's metabolic rate. Early detection and proper treatment of either can help limit the effects of the conditions and ensure that older adults continue to live healthy, happy lives.

The two conditions include:

  • 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 older adults but hard to recognize because symptoms generally occur over the course of many years. The frequency of multiple symptoms decreases with age. Seniors suffering this disease may have only one or two symptoms. Presentation of symptoms depends largely on the deficiency of hormone levels in the body.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism vary depending on how low thyroid hormone levels are, and may include fatigue; sluggishness; increased sensitivity to cold; constipation; pale, dry skin; a puffy face; hoarseness; high cholesterol levels; brittle hair and nails; unexplained weight gain; muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness; menstrual changes; muscle weakness; pain, stiffness, or swelling in joints; depression.

Risk factors for developing hypothyroidism:

  • Females over the age of 50 are more susceptible

  • Have close relatives suffer from autoimmune disease

  • Radiation treatment in the upper neck and/or chest area

  • Previous surgery on the thyroid gland

  • Iodine deficiency

Hyperthyroidism presents itself in various ways, making it a challenge to diagnose, as some symptoms are indicative of other health conditions. As with hypothyroidism, seniors may present only one or two symptoms of this disease. Medications can cause a few of the same symptoms or even mask the signs of this disease.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include sudden weight loss; rapid or irregular heartbeat; pounding of the heart; increased appetite; nervousness, anxiety or irritability; tremors in the hands or fingers; sweating; menstrual changes; increased sensitivity to heat; changes in bowel patterns; an enlarged thyroid gland; fatigue; muscle weakness; difficulty sleeping.

Risk factors for developing hyperthyroidism:

  • Having a close family member with hyperthyroidism

  • Having Graves or Plummer's disease

  • Thyroiditis, swelling or pain in the thyroid gland

  • Toxic adenoma, nodules on the thyroid gland

Thyroid disease can be more difficult to diagnose in seniors. However, when diagnosed and properly treated, thyroid disease can be managed, helping ensure the best quality of life for older adults.

Comfort Keepers Can Help

If a loved one is suffering from thyroid disease, the care team at Comfort Keepers can help. Caregivers can assist with meal preparation, medication reminders and support physician-prescribed exercise regimens and diets. The goal is to see clients have the means to find the joy and happiness in each day, regardless of age or acuity.

To learn more, call 603-536-6060 or visit nhcomfortkeepers.com

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