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50+: Live Better, Longer

Everyone Over 35 Needs Thyroid Test, Group Says

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One thing that is important to remember is that an abnormal test doesn't necessarily mean you have thyroid disease. Other illnesses -- and even some medications -- can temporarily affect thyroid hormone levels.

That is one reason, says endocrinologist Linda Lester, MD, that doctors should always retest patients with no symptoms who have an abnormal result on a thyroid test. If the second test still shows evidence of a thyroid problem, treatment should be started, because even minor thyroid dysfunction can cause other health problems.

"This is easy to treat and we can treat with really minimal side effects," says Lester, who is an assistant professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology at Oregon Health Sciences University. She reviewed the guidelines for WebMD.

In addition to adults age 35 and older, Lester says there is now new evidence that women of child-bearing age, who are in their 20s and early 30s, also should be tested because, left undetected, thyroid disease can affect the health of their babies.

Vital Information:

  • New guidelines from a group of thyroid experts recommend that everyone be screened for thyroid disease every five years, beginning at age 35.
  • The symptoms of thyroid disease can be easily missed, but it is important to treat, because it can lead to other health problems.
  • An underactive thyroid can be treated with thyroid hormone; treatment for overactive thyroid is more complex and varies according to the cause of the problem.
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