Recognizing Symptoms of Thyroid Disease in Older Adults
The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that produces hormones that primarily control metabolism. However, these hormones also impact heart function, breathing, temperature regulation, skin health, digestion, and cognitive function as well. If the thyroid creates too much or not enough hormones, it can have a variety of effects on the body. It is important that these hormone levels stay balanced for optimal health.
The symptoms of thyroid disease are similar to those of other diseases, which can lead to misdiagnoses. Seniors and healthcare providers may attribute their symptoms to other conditions or simply getting older. However, a simple blood test can quickly confirm or deny thyroid disease. Two of the most common types of thyroid disease are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Since these conditions are often hereditary, seniors should let their doctors know if they have a family history.
This condition occurs when the thyroid produces and releases too much hormone, which can cause everything in the body to speed up. Common symptoms include:
- Rapid or irregular heartrate
- Tremoring of the hands
- Unexplained weight loss
- Hair loss
- Feelings of anxiousness or nervousness
- More frequent bowel movements
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling flushed or sweaty
On other side of the spectrum, when the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone, it can slow everything in the body down. Common symptoms include:
- Slower heartrate
- Unexplained weight gain
- High cholesterol
- Decreased energy or shortness of breath
- Dry skin
- Feeling colder more easily
Diagnosing Thyroid Disease
Not every patient experiences every symptom, or even at the same level of severity. Some seniors may not even realize they are having thyroid problems until it shows up in their bloodwork. But it is important for older adults to let their doctor know about changes in their health, even if it seems minor or irrelevant. The symptoms of thyroid disease can often be confused for other conditions, so getting an accurate diagnosis is critical.
A blood test can show whether thyroid hormone levels are too low, too high, or within a normal range. There are medications that can be prescribed to help manage these levels and alleviate symptoms. Once hormone levels are back in check, seniors may experience a noticeable difference in how they feel. Thyroid levels should be checked regularly, as hyperthyroidism can turn into hypothyroidism and require a change in treatment.
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are very treatable and manageable conditions once they are identified. But if left untreated, they can have a major impact on overall health and well-being, as they can affect many different organ systems.
Living with Thyroid Disease
Seniors can live a normal life doing all of the things they enjoy even with thyroid disease if they are vigilant about taking their medication and keeping their thyroid hormone levels in check. An in-home caregiver can provide reminders about daily medication administration and upcoming medical appointments. This can help seniors stay on top of their health. A caregiver may also notice changes that seniors may not and can alert families to their concerns.
Partnering with a senior care provider can empower older adults to age in place more safely and comfortably while managing daily tasks, meal preparation, mobility, and other essential needs. Contact Always Best Care Glenview & The North Shore at (847) 730-5930 to schedule a care consultation and learn more about the benefits of in-home care.