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As you get older, you have the potential to develop thyroid disease, which affects the body’s metabolic rate. Thyroid disease in the elderly can be easily overlooked because the classic symptoms aren’t always present or are misidentified as part of the normal aging process.

The symptoms of thyroid disease vary according to whether too much hormone is being produced (hyperthyroid) or too little (hypothyroid). Hypothyroidism is much more common in seniors and symptoms are often non-specific. Take the time to learn about the symptoms below so you can spot thyroid issues as early as possible.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism[1]

  • Cold intolerance
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Mental and physical slowing
  • Sleepiness

The risk of developing hypothyroidism increases if:

  • You are a female over the age of 50 (more women suffer hypothyroidism than men)

  • You (or close relatives) suffer from autoimmune disease
  • You have taken radioactive iodine and/or medicines for hyperthyroidism
  • You have had radiation in the upper neck and/or chest area

  • You have had surgery on your thyroid gland
  • You have an iodine deficiency

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

  • Weight loss
  • Generalized weakness
  • Falling
  • Agitated depression
  • Dementia

The risk for developing hyperthyroidism may increase if:    

  • A close family member has hyperthyroidism
  • You have Graves’ or Plummer’s disease 

  • You suffer thyroiditis (swelling or pain in the thyroid gland)
  • You have toxic adenoma (nodules on the thyroid gland)

If you think you might have thyroid disease, ask your doctor for a blood test to evaluate TSH levels and T4 and T3 levels. If you do have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, treatment will vary and may include daily medication to balance your hormone levels.


  1. Thyroid Disorders in Elderly Patients: Primary Hypothyroidism. Retrieved July, 20, 2010. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/504978
Information provided is for general background purposes and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by a trained professional. You should always consult your physician about any healthcare questions you may have, especially before trying a new medication, diet, fitness program, or approach to healthcare issues.
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