The thyroid gland is located in your neck and is more important than you think. The butterfly-shaped organ controls your metabolism and regulates several vital body functions.
These functions include the heart rate, breathing, body weight, body temperature, cholesterol levels and more.
The thyroid gland needs to produce thyroid hormones that are important for the proper functioning of the body. When this gland produces excess hormones, you called hyperthyroidism, whereas when the hormones aren’t enough, it’s hypothyroidism.
Sadly, thyroid issues can happen to anyone irrespective of age and gender including children. Milder cases of thyroid disorders may not show symptoms but if left untreated, they can cause problems that affect your breathing or swallowing food.
There’s also a risk of thyroid problems leading to thyroid cancer. In fact, experts suggest that congenital hypothyroidism occurs in about one out of every 4,000 newborns.
However, thyroid disorders can be managed and in this post, we will take a look at hypothyroidism in children in particular. It can happen to children at any age including newborns.
So what are the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment for hypothyroidism in children? Read on to find out.
Causes For Hypothyroidism In Children
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Hypothyroidism can occur in children if there is a family history of the disorder. Families with a known history of the disease are at a greater risk of passing it on from one generation to another.
This also stands true for immune problems in the family that can lead to thyroid diseases.
Meanwhile, other factors that can cause hypothyroidism in children include:
Lack of iodine
Non-function thyroid gland
Abnormal pituitary gland
Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism In Children
Symptoms related to hypothyroidism differ at different ages. Here’s what you need to look out for:
While paediatricians do closely monitor the baby for the first few weeks, mums and dads need to keep an eye for these symptoms:
Yellowing of the skin and eyes
Big soft spot on the head
In toddlers and grade school children:
Parents need to watch out for these symptoms in children between the ages of two years and seven years:
Shorter than average height and limbs
Delayed mental development
Permanent teeth form later
Slow heart rate
In older children:
Kids between the ages of seven and 12 years may also exhibit these additional symptoms:
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Teenagers stand at a greater risk of forming thyroid disorders. It’s also more commonly seen with girls at this age than boys.
This is more likely to be Hashimoto’s thyroiditis autoimmune disease, which could also trigger Type 1 diabetes in kids.
Some of the symptoms that parents of teenagers need to watch out for include:
Irregular menstrual bleeding
Larger testicular size in boys
Muscle and joint pain
Slowed breast development in girls
Teenagers struggling with hypothyroidism will also have behavioural changes including:
Diagnosis Of Hypothyroidism In Children
If you think your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms, please refer to a paediatrician immediately. The doctors will conduct a medical examination to diagnose the issue and this will usually include
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
In addition to these tests, doctors will also check for an enlarged thyroid, also known as goiter in the neck that will cause trouble breathing and swallowing. It will appear in the form of a bulge on the neck.
Treatment Of Hypothyroidism In Children
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Fortunately, hypothyroidism can be managed and children can live a normal life by taking medication in time. You will be referring to an endocrinologist at this point who will give you the right medication depending on the severity of the case.
In the case of hypothyroidism, the treatment usually involves a daily thyroid hormone therapy that fulfils the body’s need for the particular hormone with a synthetic replacement.
Children will have to take a dose every morning that will fulfil that criterion.
With newborns, paediatricians usually check the baby for any abnormalities and will take immediate action, should there be an issue.
Please do reach out to your doctor if you think something is wrong and needs attention. At the same time, kids may feel shy or in most cases, will not realise that something is wrong with them.
Issues like fatigue, concentration issues, forgetfulness or mood swings can always be passed off as childish issues.
But if you think their behaviour is out of the ordinary, you may want to get them tested. More so, if you have a history of thyroid-related problems in the family.
That being said, children can fully function despite hypothyroidism and leave a long, peaceful and normal life. Do make sure to encourage them to follow their treatment and take medication on time.