Hypothyroidism In Children

This article focuses on hypothyroidism in children and how it effects child development. Also, how it's diagnosed and how it's treated.

The Thyroid gland controls almost all body functions. It affects heart rate, cholesterol level, weight, energy level, muscle strength, skin condition, vision, menstrual regularity, mental state and a many other bodily functions. If the thyroid fails to work early in life it can cause growth and development problems in children. The thyroid is the butterfly shaped gland that wraps around the front of the windpipe just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid gland produces hormones that control metabolism, growth and organ function. It pretty much controls every system in the body.

In children under the age of 2 the symptoms may not be as clear. A test is the only sure way to detect an under-active thyroid. Hypothyroidism, if left untreated in early childhood, can cause mental retardation, that is why most doctors will test the thyroid function on babies to prevent this from happening. If detected right away the doctor can then prescribe thyroid replacement therapy. The child will need to be under a doctor's care to be sure the thyroid hormone levels stay at the correct levels. Too much of the thyroid hormone can cause symptoms of hyperthyroid which can cause other problems.

In older children one of the most common symptoms a parent my notice is an enlarged thyroid gland, known as a goiter. A parent may also notice a decrease in the rate of the child's growth. What causes the thyroid to stop functioning is usually due to the body's immune system attacking the thyroid and damaging of destroying it. Sometimes hypothyroidism although very rare, is caused by a failure of the pituitary gland to produce the thyroid-stimulating hormone needed to keep the thyroid levels normal. Some of the reasons for the decrease in pituitary function are that the pituitary itself may be diseased, there may be a cyst, tumor or other growth on the gland, or the hypothalamus is diseased or there may even be a blockage.

The typical symptoms of hypothyroid are:


Hoarse voice


Difficulty swallowing (if a goiter is present)

Intolerance to cold

Mood swings

Weight gain

Decreased appetite


Growth changes (mainly with height growth)

Early or late sexual development

In children whose height growth has been delayed, with hormone treatment will usually catch up to the height they are intended to be. That is why treatment is so important. For infants as a prevention for retardation and other growth abnormalities and for older children and adolescents to be able to grow and develop at a normal rate.

The treatment for hypothyroidism in children is the same as with an adult. Thyroid hormone is replaced to supplement the body's thyroid hormone with a synthetic hormone tablet that is usually taken for the rest of the child's life. After a child has been diagnosed with hypothyroidism it will be necessary to remain under a pediatricians care and go in for periodic TSH level tests to make certain the amount of thyroid replacement is at an adequate dosage. Hypothyroid is one of the least expensive and easiest to treat. Other than taking a pill, your child will be able to lead a normal life.

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