Thyroid & Aging - Helping to Keep the Golden Years Golden

Medical Author: Ruchi Mathur, M.D.
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

It is an often a sad but true fact that as we age, the golden years are not quite as golden as we dreamed. Symptoms such as fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, and sleeplessness can make attempts at enjoying retirement difficult. Many seniors attribute these symptoms to the process of aging and simply choose to live with these complaints quietly, assuming its "par for the course." Others see their doctors for these complaints, who may also attribute these symptoms to aging, or worse, diagnose the patient with clinical depression or dementia.

What we all need to understand is that aging, in the absence of disease, should not automatically be associated with symptoms such as fatigue, forgetfulness, and sleeplessness. There should be some medical evaluation before an elderly patient is simply labeled as depressed or demented, or a chronic complainer.

The incidence of thyroid disease increases with age. An estimated 20% of women over the age of 60 have some form of thyroid disease. The symptoms of thyroid disease vary according to whether too much hormone is being produced (hyperthyroid) or too little (hypothyroid). Hypothyroidism is much more common in the elderly population, and symptoms may be non-specific such as those mentioned above.