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Signs Of Aging Might Instead Be A Treatable Thyroid Disorder

October 11, 2017

It's wrong to assume that fatigue or memory loss is an inevitable sign of aging. They also are common symptoms of an underactive thyroid -- a condition that generally responds to treatment, according to the May issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

The thyroid gland, in the neck just below the Adam's apple, plays a significant role in overall health. Hormones from the thyroid are chemical messengers, helping to control body temperature, heart rate, muscle strength, cholesterol, memory and even mood.

When a thyroid malfunctions, producing too much or too little of its hormones, chemical reactions in the body become unbalanced. The earliest symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), such as sluggishness and fatigue, too often are mistaken for simply getting older.

As hypothyroidism continues, other symptoms can include cold hands and feet, constipation, pale, dry skin, a puffy face, hoarseness or unexplained weight gain. Older people with an underactive thyroid may exhibit only one symptom, for example, memory loss or decreasing mental function.

The treatment of choice for hypothyroidism is the drug levothyroxine, which replaces a key missing hormone. Periodic blood tests are needed to determine the proper dosage.

Conversely, an overactive thyroid gland also can produce subtle symptoms. They typically include an increased heart rate, heat intolerance, weight loss and a tendency to tire during ordinary activities.

The most common treatment to reduce thyroid hormone levels involves taking oral doses of radioactive iodine. The iodine is absorbed in the thyroid gland and shrinks it. This treatment, however, often results in an underactive thyroid, requiring long-term use of levothyroxine to replace hormone levels.

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