Sunday, January 15, 2006

hypothyroidism (myxedema)

Hypothyroidism is a chronic disorder that is caused by an underactive thyroid gland. The thyroid does not secrete enough thyroid hormone, therefore the rate of all metabolic processes is decreased. Hypothyroidism may occur after thyroidectomy. Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disease in the elderly. Moderately advanced and severe hypothyroidism is found almost exclusively in the elderly. Early hypothyroidism is easily confused with the progression of normal aging. Gait disorders are common and can easily be misdiagnosed. The most common causes in the elderly may include high-dose radiation therapy for a laryngeal carcinoma or lymphoma, Graves' disease or colloid goiter; drugs that interfere with intrathyroidal iodide metabolism and surgical or I-131 ablation of the thyroid gland.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include coarse hair and skin, deep voice, slow speech, cold intolerance, weight gain, constipation, depression, pseudodementia, hyponatremia (salt depletion), and hypothermia. Hypothyroidism may go untreated for years since many of the symptoms are nonspecific. Hypothyroidism is treated by the replacement of the thyroid hormone. This may come in the form of thyroid extract or in a synthetic product. The prescription is taken orally once a day. The possible side effects of this treatment may include palpitations, hyperactivity, dyspnea (labored breathing), rapid pulse, insomnia, dizziness, and gastrointestinal disorders.
People who have had severe hypothyroidism should see a doctor regularly in order to check for the correct dosage of the thyroid extract.
Ham, R. J. Geriatric Medicine Annual-1986. Oradell, N.J.: Medical Economics Co., 1986.
Scherer, J. C. Introductory Medical-Surgical Nursing. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1982.

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