As we age, certain health issues become more prominent threats to our quality of life.
Thyroid problems are especially problematic among seniors; in fact, the American Thyroid Association has stated that as many as 1 in 4 patients in nursing homes may have undiagnosed thyroid problems.
We want to help our parents and aging loved ones live their best lives as they age; knowing the signs of a serious health disorder, such as a thyroid condition, can empower us to find them the care that they need.
Keep reading to learn some of the biggest indicators of a thyroid disorder.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck. It’s functions are many:
- Turning food into energy
- Regulation of hormones
Without a healthy, functioning thyroid, your aging parent may feel sick, fatigued, and unhappy. Untreated thyroid conditions can also cause serious health problems and even death.
Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid condition among seniors; it causes a patient to produce too few T4 hormones to effectively regulate metabolism, energy, and other important organ systems.
Some of the most telling signs of hypothyroidism are:
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Sensitivity to cold
- Limited or non-existent appetite
- Unexplained weight gain
It is important that a senior with hypothyroidism begin treatment for their condition as soon as possible. Without treatment, organ systems may be damaged. Look for these signs, and encourage your parent to seek treatment or offer to set a doctor’s appointment for them.
Arrange for transportation to help them keep their appointments, and retrieve any medications from the pharmacy.
On the opposite end of the spectrum sits hyperthyroidism, a condition that causes excessive T4 hormone to be released into the body.
This excess of T4 hormones causes many related issues in the body:
- Extreme appetite, feeling constantly hungry
- Sensitivity to heat
- Racing heart
- Feeling jittery or nervous
Hyperthyroidism presents issues with the heart, which makes it more difficult to treat than hypothyroidism. If your aging parent has heart issues or discomforts, it’s important to monitor those closely as you pursue treatment.
Other Thyroid Conditions
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism aren’t the only two conditions that a senior with a thyroid disorder may be suffering from.
Here’s a shortlist of thyroid-related diseases to also consider:
- Thyroiditis: Inflammation of the thyroid as a result of an infection or autoimmune disorder
- Goiter: Swelling of the thyroid. Goiter can be indicative of iodine deficiency or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- Graves’ Disease: An autoimmune disorder that causes an overactive thyroid and several resulting health issues
- Thyroid Cancer
- Thyroid Nodule: Can press on the thyroid, causing hyperthyroidism
As you move forward in determining the origin of your aging parent’s unique symptoms, it’s important to remember the value of good care, both at the doctor and at home.
Bluebird Homecare has decades of experience providing specialized care for aging and disabled people who need a little extra help.