Hypothyroidism in Infants and Children

Hypothyroidism in Infants and Children: Putting It All Together

Here is a summary of the important facts and information related to hypothyroidism in children.

  • Hypothyroidism is the condition marked by too little thyroid hormone in the blood. Growth and development are slowed, and children have symptoms due to inadequate stimulation of organs by thyroid hormone.
  • Hypothyroidism can occur at any age, from birth well into the senior years.
  • Correct levels of thyroid hormone are necessary for proper growth and development.
  • Newborns with hypothyroidism have symptoms that reflect delays in prenatal development (such as larger-than-normal soft spots on the skull) and symptoms due to inadequate organ stimulation (such as sleepiness and constipation).
  • Small children also may have symptoms that reflect slowed development (short stature for age and mental retardation) and inadequate organ stimulation.
  • Symptoms in older children usually reflect inadequate organ stimulation (dry skin, inability to tolerate the cold, and difficulty learning).
  • The seriousness of hypothyroidism in any given child usually relates to the age at which hypothyroidism developed and the delay (if any) in beginning treatment.
  • Diagnosis is always through blood testing, which detects the abnormally low thyroid hormone levels.
  • Congenital hypothyroidism (hypothyroidism present at birth) can be temporary or permanent.
  • Hypothyroidism can result from a diet too low in iodine, the use of certain drugs, as a side effect of radiation therapy, as a result of treatment for hyperthyroidism, or from an autoimmune disorder. A small percentage of hypothyroidism cases are due to problems in the brain or pituitary gland.
  • Hypothyroidism is treated with daily doses of synthetic (artificially manufactured) thyroid hormone that replaces the hormone missing in the body.
  • Regular monitoring via blood testing provides the means for ensuring appropriate hormone replacement therapy.
  • Thyroid hormone treatment may be needed for life, but fortunately treatment is simple, inexpensive, and easily monitored.

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