Aging & Health A to Z
Diagnosis & Tests
Because many older adults who have hypothyroidism don’t have obvious symptoms early on, some medical experts recommend that healthcare providers routinely test older patients for the disorder every two years, though this is controversial. If you already have noticeable symptoms of hypothyroidism, your healthcare professional should test for the disease as soon as possible. Blood tests can determine whether you have hypothyroidism.
To test for hyperthyroidism, a healthcare professional typically checks the levels the thyroid hormones in your blood. Healthcare providers can also use imaging tests to diagnose hyperthyroidism and determine how much of your thyroid gland is affected.
Hyperthyroidism should be treated as soon as possible. Untreated, it can lead to other health problems such as:
- osteoporosis (“thinning bones”)
- heart failure
- increased risk of heart attack
- irregular heart beat
- Weight loss.
Thyroid Nodules and Thyroid Cancer
If you have a nodule or nodules, a healthcare professional will need to examine them. Ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) is often used to determine how many nodules there are, check their shape and structure, and find out whether they are cancerous. To determine whether a nodule is cancerous, a healthcare professional will insert a very thin needle into the nodule and use it to draw out a sample of the cells inside for analysis.
Your healthcare professional may also do a “thyroid scan,” which involves injecting radioactive iodine into a vein in your arm. Once the iodine reaches your thyroid gland, your doctor can get images of your thyroid and the nodule.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012