21 Things You Should Know About Hypothyroidism In Children

Do you know that hypothyroidism can affect your child’s physical and mental development too? Read on to know all about the disorder.

By Monali Bordoloi

21 Things You Should Know About Hypothyroidism In Children
Thyroid levels are checked in newborns

One of the most important endocrine organs of the body, the thyroid gland plays an important role in normal brain development. The gland produces thyroid hormones. Production of these hormones is controlled by the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).  

Dr Roshini Rohit, obstetrician and gynaecologist, Motherhood hospital, Chennai lists out 21 things parents should know about hypothyroidism in children.

#1. Hypothyroidism is a common endocrine disorder in which your child's thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone.

#2. Thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck, just below the thyroid cartilage (Adam’s apple).

# 3. Hypothyroidism can be congenital i.e. your child may be born with it or acquired it as your child grows. In some cases, the cause of hypothyroidism is unknown.

#4. Thyroid can be acquired in children till the age of 10. Hormones produced by the thyroid affect all aspects of your child’s health including heart rate, energy, metabolism (how effectively the body uses calories), mental and physical growth and development.

#5. If the child is suffering from low thyroid disorder, it can come on the way of his normal growth and development. It can even delay puberty in children. As the children with low thyroid suffer from fatigue, it can interfere with their performance at school and in sports.

# 6. Hypothyroidism can be treated with medications like hormone replacement pills like Levothyroxine.

#6. Symptoms of thyroid disease sometimes can be difficult to recognise as these can be common complaints. Common symptoms of hypothyroid disease are constipation, weight gain, constant fatigue, sensitivity to cold, dry skin, week slow heartbeat and poor memory.

#7. Congenital hypothyroidism (CH)is a very common problem, affecting about 1 in every 2,500 to 3,000 babies. It occurs when the thyroid gland does not develop or function normally prior to birth.

#8. The heel prick test done on newborns on day 3 checks the level of Thyroid hormone. If a deficiency is found in the thyroid hormone, treatment is given within two to four weeks of the child. If treatment is given early, the child will not suffer from delayed mental growth. Do not leave hospital without this test done.

#9. The girl to boy ratio in hypothyroidism is 3:1.

#10. Another type of the disease is autoimmune hypothyroidism, i.e. chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis (CLT). In this disorder, your child’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland, leading to damage and decreased function. The disorder is also known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

#11. CLT is more common in girls than in boys, and in adolescents more than pre-adolescents.

#12. Central hypothyroidism occurs when the brain does not make thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), the signal that tells the thyroid gland to work. Central hypothyroidism may occur due to abnormal development of the pituitary glands, i.e. the location in the brain where TSH is made, trauma, a tumor or treatment for a tumor (i.e. surgery, radiation). Central hypothyroidism may be inherited, and boys and girls are affected equally.

#13. Thyroid function tests advised in overweight patients. Thyroid function testing should also be ordered when tested for elevated cholesterol, as hypothyroidism is associated with elevated LDL levels, ‘bad’ cholesterol WS to decreased metabolism of LDL.

#14. For the first few months of pregnancy, the fetus relies on the mother for thyroid hormone. Maternal hypothyroidism can cause irreversible harm to the fetus. Studies found that children born to mothers with hypothyroidism during pregnancy had lower IQ and impaired mental and motor development. If properly controlled, often by increasing the amount of thyroid hormone,

#15. Women with hypothyroidism can have healthy, unaffected babies if the disorder is properly managed. It can be done by increasing the amount of thyroid hormone.

#16. All women at the initial prenatal visit should be questioned on their history of thyroid dysfunction. Detection and treatment of maternal hypothyroidism early in pregnancy may prevent the harmful effects of maternal hypothyroidism on the child.

# 17. Thyroid function screening can be done through a blood test that measures thyroid hormone (thyroxine or T4) and serum TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed when the TSH levels are above normal and T4 levels are below normal.

#18. Most children with hypothyroidism who finish their medication, achieve normal growth and development. Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is weight and age-based, so more frequent checks are needed while your child is still physically growing.

#19. Vegetables that are rich in fibre, like broccoli, cabbage, spinach may prevent absorption of thyroid medicines. Reducing the amounts of such produce in the morning right after taking your medication may be beneficial. Green tea, coffee, soy products including tofu need to be restricted too.

# 20. The following groups should be screened for hypothyroidism:

  • Children who failed the thyroid test during newborn screening.
  • Children with poor linear growth, i.e. height to weight ratio not matching.
  • Children who have had cranial irradiation as part of medical treatment for cancer.
  • Children with a history of severe brain injury or abnormal development.
  • Anyone with symptoms of hypothyroidism.
  • All pregnant women with a family history or symptoms of thyroid disease.

# 21. If you are giving hypothyroidism medication to your baby, crush the tablet and give it to your baby with breast milk, formula or water. Older children can swallow or chew the medicine in empty stomach. You should avoid giving the thyroid replacement pill to your child at the same time they are ingesting iron or calcium.

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