SIGNS OF AN OVERACTIVE THYROID (HYPERTHYROIDISM) IN OLDER PERSONS

SA109009Human thyroid gland overlying trachea

The risk of hyperthyroidism increases as we age, and it’s especially tricky to diagnose in older persons.

The symptoms of an overactive thyroid are so diverse, affecting your mood, energy, body temperature, heart and weight that it’s difficult to get the correct diagnosis the first time around.

Compared to younger hyperthyroid patients, older patients are less likely to show the typical signs of increased sweating, heat tolerance, hand tremors, nervousness, excessive thirst and increased appetite.

For older persons, the following symptoms may be present:

1.  Depression  An older person is more likely than a younger person to develop depression.

2.  Heart Failure  Because hyperthyroidism places such a heavy burden on the heart, the heart can’t effectively pump blood through the body.   Shortness of breath, swelling in the ankles and weakness and fatigue are among the signs of heart failure.

3.  Atrial fibrillation  In a recent study, 35% of older people with hyperthyroidism experienced the disorganized heart rhythms of atrial fibrillation.

4.  Excessive weight loss  Older hyperthyroid patients tend to lose more weight than do younger patients and may even appear malnourished.  Muscle weakness may be a side effect of severe weight loss.

Source:  Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, January 19, 2013

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