Thyroid Disease in Seniors

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck just below the Adam’s apple. It is part of the endocrine system and regulates the body’s metabolism by producing and releasing hormones. The thyroid regulates many important functions including breathing, heart rate, nervous systems, muscle strength, body temperature, and menstrual cycle.

Disorders of the gland occur with greater frequency as we age, especially in women. According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million Americans have some type of thyroid disease. Furthermore, up to 60 percent of people with some form of a disorder are unaware of their condition. And one in eight woman will develop a thyroid condition during her lifetime.


If the thyroid produces too few hormones it is underactive or hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid can often mimic the normal signs of aging. Therefore, it is important to talk to your physician about all new symptoms you are experiencing. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH),  an underactive thyroid can cause the following symptoms:

  • General loss of energy and power;
  • Slowed metabolism;
  • Being overweight;
  • Tiredness;
  • Difficulties concentrating or mental slowness;
  • Constipation;
  • Sensitivity to cold;
  • Slow pulse;
  • Waxy skin thickening and swelling (myxedema);
  • Dry skin;
  • Deep, hoarse voice;
  • Brittle, dry hair;
  • Loss of sexual desire or potency problems;
  • Depression.


Autoimmune Disease, surgery to remove all or part of the gland, radiation of the head and neck, treatment for hyperthyroidism, and certain medications can all cause hypothyrodism. Diagnosis can be made from a blood test. Oral medication is the main treatment for the disease.


If the thyroid produces too many hormones it is overactive or hyperthyroidism.  According to the NIH, An overactive thyroid speeds up metabolism and can produce the following symptoms:

  • Hot flashes, sweating;
  • Trembling;
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea;
  • Hair loss;
  • Nervousness, hyperactivity;
  • Emotional instability and irritability, or fatigue;
  • Insomnia and restlessness;
  • Potency problems;
  • Racing heart.


Graves disease, an autoimmune disorder, Plummer’s disease and thyroiditis are some common causes of hyperthyroidism. A blood test can determine if you have the disease. Treatments include taking radioactive iodine, oral medications, beta blockers, and surgery.


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