Thyroid disease in the elderly. Part 1. Prevalence of undiagnosed hypothyroidism.J Fam Pract. 1994 Jun; 38(6):577-82.JF
The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of previously unrecognized hypothyroidism in elderly patients.
The study was conducted in a primary care geriatrics clinic. Three hundred seventy elderly patients (287 women, 83 men) between 60 and 97 years of age were included in the study. Medical records of patients were reviewed retrospectively. Serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), free thyroxine (T4), height, weight, demographic variables, clinical signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism, history of thyroid diseases and treatment with thyroid medications, comorbidities, and current medications were obtained from the medical records. Patients who had both elevated TSH levels (5.0 to 14.9 microU/mL) and normal free T4 levels (0.7 to 2.0 ng/dL) met the criteria for "subclinical hypothyroidism." The criteria for "overt hypothyroidism" were TSH levels > or = 15 microU/mL and low free T4 levels (< 0.7 ng/dL).
At the initial visit to the clinic, 18.1% of the patients (62 female and 5 male) had an established history of past or current thyroid disease. Another 20 women (5.4%) had a history of thyroid surgery. Of the remaining 283 patients with no history of thyroid disease, 14.6% of the women and 15.4% of the men had subclinical hypothyroidism. Overt hypothyroidism was discovered and subsequently treated in two female patients and one male patient (1.0% and 1.3%, respectively). Thyroid status was not significantly related to age group (60 to 64 years; 65 to 74; 75 to 84; 85 and older). Comorbidities typically associated with hypothyroidism were no more prevalent in hypothyroid patients than in euthyroid patients.
We found a high prevalence of newly diagnosed subclinical hypothyroidism in both elderly male and female patients. Thyroid status was not related to age or to coexisting diseases. The clinical significance of treating subclinical hypothyroidism merits investigation.