Hypothyroidism is very common in patients older than 60 years of age. The manifesting symptoms are very non-specific as in the younger patients, but the frequency of multiple symptoms decreases in the older patient, according to the American Thyroid Association.
A high index of suspicion is therefore required to diagnose hypothyroidism in the elderly.
Get TSH done in an elderly person if he or she has…
- Unexplained high cholesterol: High cholesterol is sometimes the only evidence of an underactive thyroid in an older person.
- Heart failure: Reduced blood volume, weaker contractions of the heart muscle, and a slower heart rate due to low thyroid hormone can contribute to heart failure.
- Bowel movement changes: Hypothyroidism can present with constipation because stool moves more slowly through the bowels.
- Joint or muscle pain: Vague joint pain is a classic hypothyroidism symptom. It sometimes is the only symptom of hypothyroidism in an older person. Many people experience general muscle aches, particularly in large muscle groups like those in the legs.
- Psychiatric problems: Clinical depression can affect older people with the condition. In older people it can be the only hypothyroidism symptom.
- Dementia: Debilitating memory loss can also be the lone symptom of hypothyroidism.
- Balance problems: Hypothyroidism can lead to abnormalities in the cerebellum and cause problems with walking in older people. (Source Harvard Newsletter)
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