Diagnosing and managing thyroid disease in the nursing home.J Am Med Dir Assoc 2008; 9(1):9-17JA
Thyroid disorders occur at any age, but hypothyroidism is more common in older than in younger adults. In fact, the prevalence of thyroid disorders increases with age, and it is higher in old-old frail residents in nursing homes. Since thyroid diseases in older age, both overt reduced and increased function, may manifest as disorders of other organs, physicians need a high index of suspicion to detect thyroid dysfunction in an older person with multiple comorbidities and chronic polypharmacy. This is particularly true for residents of long-term facilities, where multiple chronic diseases may make it less attractive to direct attention to thyroid function. Subclinical hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, more frequently seen in older populations, have been linked to increased total and cardiovascular mortality. Since chronic diseases are more prevalent in old age, nonthyroidal illness is also seen frequently in this age group. Although, there is still debate on the decision to treat or not to treat subclinical thyroid disorders, current recommendations state the necessity of considering treatment on an individual basis according to symptomatology and to the possible benefit that the older person may obtain with treatment, discouraging extended screening and treatment in the community population of subjects older than 65. However, in the long-term setting, the possibility of thyroid dysfunction can be more often investigated, and the consideration of treatment and follow-up is needed to improve quality of life of affected older people.