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Merck Manual

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Spotlight on Aging: Hypothyroidism in Older People

Spotlight on Aging: Hypothyroidism in Older People

Many older people have some degree of hypothyroidism. About 10% of women and 6% of men are affected.

Typical symptoms, such as weight gain, muscle cramps, tingling of the hands, and the inability to tolerate cold, are less common among older people. When such symptoms do occur among older people, they are less obvious.

Older people may also have less typical symptoms. For example, they may lose weight, become confused, and have a decreased appetite, joint stiffness, joint and muscle pains, weakness, and a tendency to fall.

Because symptoms in older people can be different, are often subtle and vague, and are common among older people who do not have hypothyroidism, doctors may not recognize these symptoms as being caused by hypothyroidism. A screening test, in which blood levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone are measured, is important. The test should be done at age 65 even if people have no symptoms of hypothyroidism.