Your Aging Thyroid

As people age, their bodies start to slow down. Including their thyroids.

The thyroid gland releases less T3 and T4 hormones as you age. Moreover, whatever hormone is released is less effective than it is in younger people. As a result, older people have a greater risk of thyroid disease.

However, the classic symptoms of thyroid disease — fatigue, weakness, constipation, reduced appetite, intolerance to cold, hair loss, and dry skin — are often less apparent in seniors. Even when present, they are often attributed to the aging process rather than to an underactive thyroid.

Treatment for hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is the same in the senior population as it is for younger people: hormone replacement therapy. But seniors will start at a lower dose of medication than younger adults, since the hormone can increase the risk of such cardiac events as angina, arrhythmia, and heart attack.

Seniors with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) are also less likely to have the classic symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Instead, symptoms in older people will likely involve cognitive impairment, fatigue, and mania or depression.

Unlike hypothyroidism, treatment for hyperthyroidism in older people is different from the treatment in younger patients. While younger people may be advised to have surgery, seniors are more likely to be treated with radioactive iodine, which destroys only some of the thyroid. Radioactive iodine is not only less risky for a senior with hyperparathyroidism, it is also more effective. Sometimes radioactive iodine treatment will cause the patient will develop hypothyroidism. In that case, they will then be treated with hormone replacement medication.

Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is a government-approved PACE program created to provide seniors, their family, caregivers and professional health care providers the flexibility to meet their health care needs while continuing to live in their community.

Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to develop the most effective plan of care.

We provide a variety of services, including primary care, hospital care, medical specialty services, prescription drugs, nursing home care, emergency services, home care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, adult day care, recreational therapy, meals, dentistry, nutritional counseling, social services, laboratory / X-ray services, social work counseling, and transportation.

Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.

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