Health conditions

Hypothyroidism: Signs and symptoms in older adults

Women talking with doctor

Memory loss. Weight gain. Sleepiness. Dry skin. Constipation. Feeling cold.

You might attribute these symptoms to getting older, but each one could be a sign of something else—a sign that your thyroid gland isn’t functioning properly, according to the Cleveland Clinic.1

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid doesn't create and release enough thyroid hormone into the bloodstream.2 This is a problem because it slows down your metabolism, which may affect your entire body.

According to the American Thyroid Association,3 “hypothyroidism is very common in patients over 60 years of age and steadily increases with age. Up to 1 in 4 patients in nursing homes may have undiagnosed hypothyroidism.”

Especially for older patients, it’s not uncommon for hypothyroidism to look like bowel disease, heart disease or nervous system disorder.4 And since hypothyroidism can often look like other disorders, it’s important to talk openly to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. The American Thyroid Association lists these 3 clues that can help your healthcare provider give you an accurate diagnosis:5

  • History of thyroid disease in another close family member
  • Past treatment for hyperthyroidism
  • History of extensive surgery and/or radiotherapy to the neck

According to the Cleveland Clinic, in most cases, hypothyroidism is treated by taking a daily pill, known as thyroid hormone replacement therapy.6 This pill treats the negative symptoms you may be experiencing. And to make sure you’re on the right track, your healthcare provider will ask you to come in for lab work to test your thyroid levels and make adjustments to your medication, if necessary, says the Cleveland Clinic.7

 

Sources

  1. “Hypothyroidism,” Cleveland Clinic, October 21, 2021, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12120-hypothyroidism.
  2. “Hypothyroidism.”
  3. “Older Patients and Thyroid Disease,” American Thyroid Association, October 24, 2021, https://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-disease-older-patient/.
  4. “Older Patients and Thyroid Disease.”
  5. “Older Patients and thyroid Disease.”
  6. “Hypothyroidism.”
  7. “Hypothyroidism.”