Understanding Thyroid Disease in Seniors

thyroid disease

June was Thyroid Awareness Month in Canada. As we age, we become more susceptible to thyroid issues — therefore, seniors must know what it is, what their risk is, and what they should do if they suspect they have a problem with their thyroid.

 

What Is a Thyroid?

Your thyroid is a small gland located at the base of the front of your neck. This butterfly-shaped gland is situated just below your Adam’s apple.

 The thyroid may be small, but it controls how your body’s cells process the energy you get from the food you eat. It can affect your heartbeat, your body’s temperature, and how well you burn calories.

 

Understanding Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid over-functions and produces too much thyroid hormone. Unfortunately, it’s hard to diagnose because there are often few symptoms, and they are often symptoms commonly found in the elderly.

 Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include irregular heartbeat, anxiety, increased sensitivity to heat, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and sudden weight loss.

Risk factors of hyperthyroidism include having close relatives with hyperthyroidism, a previous diagnosis of Graves Disease or Plummer’s Disease, or having nodules on the thyroid glands.

 

Understanding Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid under-functions and lowers your body’s metabolic rate by producing too little thyroid hormone. It’s more common than hyperthyroidism in older adults, but it can be hard to recognize the symptoms because they’re often minimal or present the same as other conditions.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, constipation, increased sensitivity to cold, high cholesterol levels, puffy face, brittle nails, pain, stiffness, muscle weakness, and unexplained weight gain.

Risk factors of developing hypothyroidism are being a woman over 50, iodine deficiency, having close relatives with autoimmune conditions, and previous surgery or radiation treatments on your thyroid.

 

How to Get a Diagnosis

If you suspect you have either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, visit a doctor who will send a simple blood test to measure your TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels. Often, your doctor will include a TSH test as part of your regular blood work if you have any risk factors or are over the age of 50 — especially if you’re a female, so ask at your next appointment.

 

Treatment of Thyroid Conditions

Medications are the primary treatment method for hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. It helps to restore the proper thyroid hormone levels in the body. Unfortunately, it may take a little bit of trial and error to get the correct dosage, and you will need to have your TSH checked regularly to check if the dosage needs adjusting.

 

At Trillium Communities, we have a lot of residents who have thyroid issues, as well as other health conditions. We work collaboratively with all of our residents to give them the care they need when they need it. Our meals are exceptional, our activities are fun and educational, and you’ll have a private suite to enjoy when you aren’t in the mood for the social opportunities we offer. Tours of all of our independent living and assisted living boutique communities are available online or by contacting us.