The development of sensitive assays for thyrotropin (TSH) has led to the discovery that many older patients have abnormal TSH levels without other alterations in serum thyroid hormone levels, conditions termed subclinical hypothyroidism (isolated elevation of TSH levels) and subclinical hyperthyroidism (isolated suppression of TSH levels). Subclinical hypothyroidism occurs in 5% to 10% of elderly subjects, and is especially prevalent in elderly women. Subclinical hyperthyroidism is less common, affecting less than 2% of the elderly population. The causes of subclinical thyroid disease in the elderly are similar to those of thyroid disease in the general population, although medications and iodine-containing compounds may play an increased role. Potential risks of subclinical hypothyroidism in the elderly include progression to overt hypothyroidism, cardiovascular effects, hyperlipidemia, and neurological and neuropsychiatric effects. Potential risks of subclinical hyperthyroidism in the elderly include progression to overt hyperthyroidism, cardiovascular effects (especially atrial fibrillation), and osteoporosis. Decisions to treat elderly subjects with subclinical thyroid disease should be based on a careful assessment of these risks in the individual patient.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism