Posted on Jun 26, 2020, 2 p.m.
Most people that have been diagnosed with a thyroid disease are fairly shocked at how such a tiny gland can have such a significant impact on their overall health and well being. But this little gland is constantly producing hormones throughout your life that influence metabolism, and when a condition causes it to under/over produce thyroid hormones you will know that something is not right.
Some people over the age of 60 will have a few, if any, classic symptoms of hypothyroidism, while others may be experiencing the same symptoms as those who are younger do. Other people may be experiencing symptoms that are anything but typical which makes diagnosing hypothyroidism even more difficult.
According to Harvard Medical School Healthbeat any of the following signs and symptoms may be an indication of hypothyroidism in an older person which includes but is not limited to unexplained high cholesterol, heart failure, bowel movement changes, joint/muscle pain, balance issues, dementia, and psychiatric problems.
High cholesterol can sometimes be the only evidence of an under active thyroid gland in an older person, but this condition may be diagnosed as a cholesterol disorder rather than hypothyroidism. As high cholesterol could be a stand alone symptom it warrants a thyroid evaluation.
Weaker contractions of the heart muscle, reduced blood volume, and a slower heart rate may be caused by low thyroid hormone levels, and all of these can contribute to heart failure as the heart is not meeting the needs of the body. Ineffective pumping also causes blood to back up in veins that return to the heart, which can backup all the way to the lungs and cause them to become congested with fluid. Symptoms of heart failure include but are not limited to fatigue, weakness, swelling in the ankles, and breathlessness.
A person with hypothyroidism may experience constipation as stool moves more slowly through the bowels; less commonly a person may experience frequent bouts of diarrhea but this is typically associated with hyperthyroidism. Some people with autoimmune diseases such as Hashimotos’s can also have celiac disease which can also cause diarrhea.
A classic hypothyroidism symptom is vague joint pain, and sometimes this can be the only symptom that an older person is displaying. Many older people experience general muscle aches which are particularly more common in large muscle groups such as those in the legs.
Older people with hypothyroidism may develop issues with walking as the condition can lead to abnormalities in the cerebellum, which is a region at the back of the brain that is involved with motor control.
Should you or a loved one be in the process of being tested for dementia make sure that a thyroid test is part of the evaluation as debilitating memory loss is often accompanied by depression or psychosis which can be the only symptom of hypothyroidism.
Clinical depression is a common symptom in younger people with hypothyroidism, but it can also affect older people with the difference being that in older populations this may be the only symptom of hypothyroidism. Some older adults may also develop psychosis with hallucinations or delusional behavior.
If you are always cold, can’t lose weight, you have brittle hair/fingernails, and have other unexplained health issues, it may be worth having your thyroid gland evaluated. Left untreated a thyroid condition can make you feel very bad, and it can increase the odds of having high cholesterol, developing atherosclerosis, and experiencing a heart attack.
You do not have to suffer with a thyroid disease, new testing is making it possible to provide a precise account of how your thyroid gland is functioning as well as helping to determine the cause of the problem. There are many forms of thyroid disease, treatment can range from lifestyle changes to taking the correct amount of medication to enable you to be able to carry on with your life having the disease put in check.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.