Understanding The Role Of The Thyroid And How An Aging Thyroid Affects The Older Generation
Pegasus Home Health Care nourishes an equitable and inclusive atmosphere for our clients and the professionals who care for them. Our policy of supporting diversity enhances our recognition as an industry leader. We have met our goal of helping individuals live safely and independently at home since 1994.
Pegasus skilled in-home caregivers in Los Angeles and elsewhere are familiar with their patient’s medical conditions. For example, they understand how an aging thyroid affects the older generation. Our career home health care nurses know the symptoms can be very subtle, making diagnosis difficult.
The Thyroid Produces Essential Hormones
The thyroid gland, located in the neck, is small, but it has a big job. It makes hormones that regulate some of the body’s most essential functions. These include an individual’s:
- Mental state
Your patient may or may not have obvious symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid. And some symptoms can be attributed to other causes.
The four common types of thyroid disorders are:
- Hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid
- Hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid
- Lumps (nodules) on the thyroid gland
- Thyroid cancer
Each type has distinctive symptoms which can affect older and younger individuals. However, some of the symptoms are age-related.
For example, the production of hormones in an older adult can increase or decrease temporarily. The change may stabilize, and no treatment is necessary.
Certain medications also affect thyroid function. Being hospitalized or undergoing other treatments also cause fluctuations in hormone production. Diagnosis often requires repeated testing to confirm hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Euthyroid refers to a healthy thyroid gland. However, testing indicates abnormal function. Medical experts have named this euthyroid sick syndrome.
The cause is an underlying illness, trauma, injury, or infection. Or your patient may be fasting or otherwise malnourished. Rather than thyroid treatment, treatment should be directed to the cause of the abnormal test results.
Hyperthyroidism Is Often Difficult To Diagnose In The Elderly
Examples of symptoms of hyperthyroidism in your older patients include:
- Decreased appetite
- Frequent bowel movements
- Heart arrhythmias
- Heat intolerance
- Increased sweating
- Loss of muscle mass
- Panic attacks
- Weight loss
If not treated, hyperthyroidism can lead to heart failure. Younger patients often have five or more of the symptoms. The elderly may only have one or two, making early diagnosis difficult.
Benign lumps sometimes cause an overactive thyroid. These go by various names, including toxic adenoma, toxic multinodular goiter, and Plummer disease. Thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid, causes excess hormones to leak into the bloodstream.
Hypothyroidism Occurs Most Often In Older Women
Hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism in seniors. Although it can affect younger individuals, hypothyroidism occurs more often in those over the age of 60. Your female patients are at higher risk than your male patients.
- Hyperthyroidism treatment
- Lack of iodine
The symptoms of hypothyroidism usually develop slowly. They include:
- Cold intolerance
- Dry skin and hair
- High cholesterol
- Muscle weakness and pain
- Puffiness and other changes in facial appearance
- Weight gain
Hypothyroidism in older adults can be challenging to diagnose. Symptoms are minimal in some individuals, while others have atypical symptoms. In some cases, the symptoms are the same in older people as they are in younger individuals.
Thyroid Nodules Are Usually Benign
Thyroid nodules increase in incidence as individuals age. They occur more often in women than they do in men. Only about five percent are malignant.
Nodules are commonly referred to as goiters. Goiter means an enlarged thyroid gland. Other than the appearance of a lump, few nodules have noticeable symptoms.
- Cysts, tissue overgrowth, and tumors
- Hashimoto’s disease
If the nodule is not treated, it can cause pressure against the windpipe or esophagus as it enlarges. That can lead to difficulty breathing or swallowing for your patient.
Thyroid Cancer Usually Grows Slowly
The symptoms of thyroid cancer include swelling and difficulty swallowing. Some patients experience changes in their voice and pain. There are several types of thyroid cancer, and most are treatable if detected early.
Although thyroid cancer usually grows slowly, some types are aggressive. Thyroid cancer can metastasize to other parts of your patient’s body, including their lungs or bones.
Your female patients are at higher risk for thyroid cancer than your male patients. Other risk factors include exposure to radiation and genetics.
Join Us In Providing Quality Care
Pegasus expert in-home caregivers in Los Angeles and our other locations help their patients manage symptoms of thyroid disorders. Their goal is to increase an individual’s independence and quality of life. Career home health care nurses understand how important the thyroid is to staying healthy.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. We treat our clients with dignity and respect for their privacy regardless of their medical needs. We are an equal opportunity employer, and we are currently hiring professional caregivers from all walks of life.