The symptoms of thyroid disease are so wide-ranging, particularly in seniors, that doctors often overlook thyroid disorder as the cause and, instead, focus on common illnesses that occur with age, such as heart failure, high cholesterol, or dementia.
In general, hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) leads to symptoms as diverse as depression, hair loss, weight gain, dry skin, and feeling cold and continually tired. Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) can make you lose weight and feel nervous, anxious, warm, and hungry all the time.
Sometimes older patients show symptoms that do not occur at all in younger patients, such as:
- Sudden rise in cholesterol level
- Congestive heart failure
- Change in bowel movements
- Psychiatric problems like dementia
- Problems with balance
The American Association of Endocrinologists estimates that 13 million Americans have thyroid disorders – and more than half are undiagnosed. The incidence of thyroid disease increases with age. By age 60, as many as 17 percent of women have an underactive thyroid, according to Georgetown University Medical Center.