Thyroid Disease and Your Golden Years
July is Thyroid awareness month so we thought we’d talk a little about your thyroid and how it might be causing you some issues, like depression and anxiety.
Does Thyroid Disease affect older adults?
Absolutely! Thyroid disease is very much an illness found in older adults and sadly it often goes undiagnosed. As many as 6% of people over 60 may have some form of undiagnosed thyroid disease. Thyroid disease often goes undiagnosed in older adults is because the symptoms are often overlooked as signs of common illnesses.
What is Thyroid Disease?
The thyroid is a small organ located in the front of your neck that makes hormones that keep your body function normally.
Thyroid disease is a general term for a medical condition. When your thyroid is making either too much or too little of the hormones your body needs to work properly it can cause serious problems in your whole body.
When the thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone, your body uses energy too quickly. This is called hyperthyroidism. Using energy too quickly will do more than make you tired — it can make your heart beat faster, cause you to lose weight without trying and even make you feel nervous.
If your thyroid is making too little thyroid hormone this is called hypothyroidism. When you have too little thyroid hormone in your body, it can make you feel tired, you might gain weight and you may even be unable to tolerate cold temperatures.
What are the Symptoms of Thyroid Disease?
Although there is some overlap, for the most part, the symptoms of thyroid disease can be divided into two groups — those related to having too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) and those related to having too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism).
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) may include:
- Anxiety, irritability and nervousness.
- Having trouble sleeping.
- Losing weight.
- Having an enlarged thyroid gland or a goitre.
- Having muscle weakness and tremors.
- Feeling sensitive to heat.
- Changes in bowel habits.
- Having vision problems or eye irritation.
Symptoms of an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) can include:
- Depression and anxiety.
- Heart failure.
- Feeling tired.
- Gaining weight.
- Experiencing forgetfulness.
- Having dry and coarse hair.
- Changes in bowel habits.
- Intolerance to cold temperatures.
What You Can Do?
If you’re having any of the above symptoms and they've gone unexplained, you’re right to be suspicious. Talk to your doctor about your thyroid and ask them for a thyroid evaluation. They will start by examining the thyroid gland in your neck and request a simple blood test to confirm this is exactly what is going on.
The good news is thyroid illness is pretty easy to diagnose and treat. So talk to your doctor about your thyroid and get yourself checked out. It could help you feel better and get back to the things you enjoy.