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Thyroid Function and Older Adults

Thyroid function declines as a normal process of aging and if not corrected may have negative effects on one’s health. Fortunately, there are signs to look out for and various treatment options. Often people associate the signs of low thyroid function with normal aging process but that may not be the case.

Some of the most common signs of low thyroid function (also known as hypothyroidism) are:
Low energy or feeling depressed
Cognitive decline
Feeling cold (hand and feet) or intolerance to cold
Weight gain
Dry itchy skin
Muscle cramps, weakness, and as a result increase in falls

The diagnosis can be a simple blood test that is done by your physician that would show the levels of your thyroid hormones. Be aware that thyroid levels can be affected by stress and illness. So, it may be a good idea to consult with your physician as the timing of the test as well. Once diagnosed with having low thyroid function, a once a day pill maybe all that is needed.

One of the most commonly prescribed medications is levothyroxine which comes in different colors depending on the dose given. Each dose has a particular color for safety reasons to know you are getting what you were prescribed by the doctor. It is best to be familiar with one’s medication dose and color, so if a change is made either by a physician or the pharmacy, it can be addressed to make sure it is what was intended.

On the flip side, getting too much thyroid medication could also occur. Know the signs of over compensation to speak with the physicians about which could be an increase in heart rate or palpitations and anxiety. Sometimes a simple fix such as a more gradual increase or a lower dose of the same medication is appropriate.

It is also very important how to take thyroid medications. They are mainly dosed once a day and to get the maximum absorption, thyroid medications are best taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, 30 to 60 minutes before eating anything else and with a full glass of water.

Common signs of high thyroid function or too much thyroid medication:
Increase heart rate
Heat intolerance
Weight loss

Even if you notice these symptoms, do not suddenly stop your thyroid medication without speaking to your physician first.

Proper storage of any medication is very important especially when it comes to thyroid medications since they are heat and moisture sensitive. Medications should be stored in a cool dry place away from children and pets. Avoid storing in a bathroom cabinet or near stove area in the kitchen as heat and humidity can degrade the medication.

At your next visit with your physician, discuss getting your thyroid levels checked if you suspect you may have thyroid dysfunction.

Questions or comments email Behnaz Sarrami, MS, PharmD or call (301) 257-7994

About STL H&W Staff

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