Your thyroid gland may be small, but it plays a big role in your health. Located just above your collarbone, this important endocrine gland produces hormones that ensure proper functioning of your brain, heart, kidneys, and liver. Thyroid hormones regulate your physical energy, temperature, weight, and mood — every aspect of your metabolism is regulated by thyroid hormones.
Thyroid disorders are common in the elderly, and symptoms are often masked by other coexisting conditions or medications. According to the American Thyroid Association, 60 percent of people with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. Undiagnosed, thyroid disease may increase the risk of developing serious conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
To ensure you’re aware of potential symptoms that can signal thyroid problems, East Georgia Regional’s Senior Extra program would like to share basic information about thyroid disease.
Types Of Thyroid Disease Thyroid disease occurs when the gland functions improperly, such as not producing enough thyroid hormone — known as hypothyroidism — or producing too much, called hyperthyroidism. Thyroid complications can also occur when there’s abnormal growth or nodules, which are lumps that form within your thyroid. These are common and don’t usually cause serious health problems. Thyroid cancer, which is much less common than benign nodules, is highly treatable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cure rate for thyroid cancer is greater than 90 percent. Being familiar with the most common thyroid disease symptoms can help alert you to changes that you should discuss with your doctor. If problems occur, it’s important to seek treatment to minimize further complications. Hypothyroidism
Often, hypothyroidism doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages, but left untreated, symptoms become more noticeable and worsen. Symptoms can include:
Low energy and impaired thinking.
Depression and weight gain.
Muscle weakness, pain or stiffness.
Joint pain, stiffness or swelling.
Increased sensitivity to cold or numbness.
Dry skin, and brittle fingernails and hair.
Older adults are more likely to have no — or very subtle — symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Additionally, medications to treat high blood pressure, or beta blockers, may mask the signs of hyperthyroidism. The most common symptoms experienced by older adults include:
Abnormal heart rhythms, such as a rapid heartbeat.
Fatigue, muscle weakness, and weight loss.
Difficulty tolerating heat and increased sweating.
Frequent bowel movements.
If someone in your family has a thyroid condition, talk with your doctor about how this may affect your health. Being aware of potential symptoms can help identify problems at the earliest stages and can help prevent further complications.