Thyroid problems linked to dementia risk

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The team behind the study said the risk applied to older people with an underactive thyroid.

Furthermore, the risk was said to be even higher for people whose thyroid condition required hormone replacement medication.

To come to their conclusions, the researchers looked at the health records of over 7,000 people who had been recently diagnosed with dementia in Taiwan.

While there was an increased risk of dementia, the researchers say they found no link between dementia and hyperthyroidism, the condition which occurs when someone has an underactive thyroid.

However, when researchers assessed those taking medication for the condition, they found they were three times as likely to develop dementia than those who weren’t taking medication.

Discussing the study, the author of the paper Doctor Chien-Hsiang Wang said “In some cases, thyroid disorders have been associated with dementia symptoms that can be reversible with treatment.

“While more studies are needed to confirm these findings, people should be aware of thyroid problems as a possible risk factor for dementia and therapies that could prevent or slow irreversible cognitive decline.”

Furthermore, Doctor Weng also highlighted the gap in risk between the medicated and non-medicated.

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He said: “One explanation for this could be that these people are more likely to experience greater symptoms from hypothyroidism where treatment was needed.”

Hyperthyroidism, like any other condition, has a range of symptoms and treatments available.

Symptoms include:
• Tiredness
• Being sensitive to cold
• Weight gain
• Constipation
• Depression
• Slow movements and thoughts.

Other signs featured by the NHS are:
• Muscle cramps
• Dry and scaly skin
• Brittle hair and nails
• Loss of libido
• Pain, numbness, and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers
• Irregular or heavy periods.

On the condition, the NHS added: “Elderly people with an underactive thyroid may develop memory problems and depression.

“Children may experience slower growth and development. Teenagers may start puberty earlier than normal.

“If you have any of these symptoms, see a GP and ask to be tested for an underactive thyroid.”

Alongside, a potential increased risk of dementia, an untreated underactive thyroid can have a range of other symptoms too.

These include a low-pitched and hoarse voice, a puffy-looking face, thinned or partly missing eyebrows, a slow heart rate, hearing loss, and anaemia.

What causes an underactive thyroid

On this the NHS says: “An underactive thyroid often occurs when the immune system, which usually fights infection, attacks the thyroid gland. This damages the thyroid, which means it’s not able to make enough of the hormone thyroxine, leading to the symptoms of an underactive thyroid.

“A condition called Hashimoto’s disease is the most common type of autoimmune reaction that causes an underactive thyroid. It’s not clear what causes Hashimoto’s disease, but it runs in families.

“It’s also common in people with another immune system disorder, such as type 1 diabetes and vitiligo.”

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