OLDER PEOPLE AND THYROID DISEASE
Thyroid disease, particularly underactive thyroid disease, is common amongst the elderly.
It is important for an older person to have a thyroid blood test if they have some of the mind and/or body symptoms of thyroid disease. For example confusion and memory loss could be due to an underactive thyroid.
Equally anxiety and other symptoms may be due at least in part to an overactive thyroid. If these symptoms or other symptoms of dementia/mental disorder arise a thyroid test should show up any thyroid problem which may be causing or exacerbating the mental condition.
For people with underactive thyroid disease thyroxine reduces confusion, memory loss and other mental symptoms in many cases so that there may be no need for psychiatric medication.” Similarly treatments for an overactive thyroid may help with mental symptoms.
Hypothyroid people are more likely to suffer from hypothermia, this applies particularly to the elderly. It may be helpful to record a person’s body temperature and inform the doctor of the readings and other symptoms when requesting a thyroid blood test.
Treatment with thyroxine needs to be carefully monitored by a doctor with regular blood tests and attention to any existing health problems such as angina or diabetes. It is considered important for someone with angina to have their thyroxine introduced at a low dose and raised gradually and with care.
It is important for a forgetful elderly person to have assistance in remembering to take thyroxine daily along with any other necessary medication.
Because of the frequent use of psychiatric medication in geriatric settings it is crucial for staff to be aware of thyroid issues and to raise the question of thyroid testing with the person and their doctor.
Inappropriate psychiatric medication given to a hypothyroid person may cause suffering such as severe cold and may worsen their thyroid disease.
If an elderly person is very unwell with underactive thyroid disease they may need injections of T3 to prevent severe problems including hypothermia and coma.