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Ageing and thyroid disease 

Ageing and thyroid disease
Chapter:
Ageing and thyroid disease
Author(s):

Stefano Mariotti

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199235292.003.0138
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date: 20 November 2017

The relationship between ageing and the thyroid has been the object of intensive investigation (1) for several pathophysiological, epidemiological, and clinical reasons. Symptoms of ageing can easily be confused with hypothyroidism, and decreased thyroid function was once believed to be a hallmark of senescence. Thyroid diseases are common in the elderly, but their clinical manifestations are different from those seen in younger patients, being more vague, subtle, and often hidden by concurrent diseases. The interpretation of thyroid function tests is often difficult in elderly individuals, due to age-associated changes of thyroid physiology, alterations of thyroid function tests secondary to nonthyroidal illness, and/or drug intake. Treatment of thyroid disease deserves special attention in elderly patients due to the increased risk of complications and/or drug interactions. If untreated, thyroid dysfunctions may lead to significant morbidity in elderly people, mostly through an aggravation of coexistent cardiovascular disease. A remarkable exception to this concept is represented by mild hypothyroidism, which in the oldest elderly population appears to be associated with no harm, and possibly increased survival.

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