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Common Thyroid Diseases That Affect the Elderly

By Greg Bridges, RN, MA, 9:00 am on

The thyroid is a gland in the neck that is responsible for producing and releasing several hormones that are essential to bodily functions. Thyroid disease is considered hyperthyroidism if the thyroid produces too many hormones, whereas hypothyroidism occurs if it produces too little. The thyroid may work fine for years before suddenly developing an issue later in life.  Oklahoma senior care providers should familiarize themselves with the following, as they are the most common thyroid conditions among the elderly.

Plummer Syndrome

This disease, also called toxic nodular goiter, is a form of hyperthyroidism. It occurs when certain areas of the thyroid become enlarged and turn into nodules that produce excess amounts of thyroid hormone. Plummer syndrome causes unexplained weight loss, fatigue, fidgeting, and excessive bowel movements. Since it is most common among people over the age of 40 who have iodine deficiencies, this condition can often be treated with iodine supplements.

Graves’ Disease

This disease is the leading cause of hyperthyroidism and it is characterized by puffy eyes, excessive sweating, high blood pressure, and abnormal heart rates. Graves’ disease happens when they thyroid is confused by abnormal antibodies and starts producing excessive amounts of hormones. To prevent the thyroid from producing excessive hormones, surgery or medication is typically required.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

This is the most common reason that elderly people develop hypothyroidism and it is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the thyroid gland. It causes an enlarged thyroid, weight gain, fatigue, and slowed heart rate. Typically, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can be treated with artificial hormone medications.

Atrophic Thyroiditis

Like Hashimoto’s, this form of hypothyroidism is also caused by an autoimmune condition, however it does not result in goiters. Instead, the thyroid is likely to shrink and be surrounded by scar tissue as the patient experiences the normal symptoms of hypothyroidism. Synthetic hormones can replace the lost hormones caused by atrophic thyroiditis.

If your loved one was diagnosed with a thyroid disease, he or she can still remain at home with help from Home Care Assistance of Oklahoma. We are a dedicated provider of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and post-stroke care Oklahoma seniors need to age in place while managing their injuries or illnesses. Our trusted caregivers will remind your loved one to take the required medications, maintain healthy diet and exercise, and offer personal care assistance to promote overall wellbeing and preserve independence. Call 405-285-4191 today for more information and to schedule a free consultation.