Thyroid disease affects millions of Americans each year and elderly women have the highest risk. When the disease is caught early and treated, it’s possible to manage the symptoms quite successfully. However, if thyroid disease does not get the medical attention it needs, it could lead to serious health issues with elderly adults.
Basics of Thyroid Disease
Many family caregivers and senior care providers are not sure what thyroid disease is or how it can affect the lives of aging adults. A small gland near the throat, the thyroid pumps hormones into the body that regulate a person’s metabolic rate. Part of the endocrine system, the thyroid is a key part in helping the body convert food to energy and how that energy is used. Thyroid disease means that the thyroid is not doing its job and can lead to serious health issues if not treated.
Family caregivers and senior care providers should be on the lookout for the many symptoms that are present when an elderly adult has thyroid disease. They should definitely not ignore the warning signs, because if the disease is not treated, the aging adult could encounter even more serious health problems. When treated, seniors with thyroid disease can manage the symptoms and live a long and good life with support from the family caregiver and the senior care provider. There are two main types of thyroid disease: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
One type of thyroid disease is hypothyroidism. When the thyroid is underactive, or not producing enough of the necessary hormones, it’s known as hypothyroidism. It may be triggered by some autoimmune disease, or as a side effect of some medication. An elderly person with hypothyroidism may not display any symptoms, but some of the most common symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, aching muscles, pale skin, lack of focus, puffy or swollen face and constipation.
Treating the symptoms of hypothyroidism means taking a synthetic hormone supplement and monitoring food intake. A healthy diet, exercise, and restful sleep can also affect how well an aging adult copes with hypothyroidism. Family caregivers and senior care providers can assist the aging adult in following their treatment regimen for hypothyroidism.
Another type of thyroid disease is hyperthyroidism. This occurs when the thyroid overproduces hormones, flooding the body with too much. An overactive thyroid can be caused by too much iodine, certain diseases and as a side effect of some medications. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include a rapid heart rate, tremors, weight loss, fatigue, sweating, digestive issues, and jitters.
When the body produces too many hormones from the thyroid, seniors must take medication to slow it down. Doctors will also give the same advice on a healthy diet, exercise and plenty of sleep to help aging adults control the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.