Thyroid disease: Understanding hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism

Doctors often mistake the symptoms of thyroid disease for another disorder such as heart failure, high cholesterol, or even dementia, says a new edition of a report from Harvard Medical School.

The symptoms of thyroid diseases are so wide-ranging, particularly in older men and women, that doctors often overlook thyroid disorder as the cause and instead focus on common illnesses that occur with age, according to Thyroid Disease: Understanding Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism.

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 constantly hungry. Many of these symptoms are also associated with aging, so older patients and their doctors may attribute these problems to simply getting older. Occasionally, seniors with thyroid problems will exhibit symptoms that don't occur in younger patients, such as unexplained high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, a change in bowel movements, psychiatric problems, dementia, and trouble with balance.

While many doctors do check thyroid function periodically, routine screening is not universal. So, if you suspect you have a problem, ask your doctor to evaluate your thyroid. If it turns out your thyroid isn't working correctly, work closely with your doctor to bring your thyroid hormone levels back to normal.

Thyroid Disease: Understanding Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism is a 48-page report edited by Jeffrey R. Garber, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. This report also discusses:

  • signs, symptoms, and explanations of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
  • risk factors for thyroid problems
  • causes of thyroid problems
  • ways to tell if your case might be reversible or treatable
  • what to expect from a thyroid evaluation
  • treatment and medications.

Thyroid Disease: Understanding Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism is available for $16 from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School. Order it online at http://www.health.harvard.edu/E or by calling 1-877-649-9457 (toll free).

http://www.health.harvard.edu

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