Hypothyroidism in Infants and Children

Living with Hypothyroidism in Infants and Children

Hypothyroidism is a common endocrine condition in adults and a relatively common endocrine condition in infants and children. This thyroid problem can be treated relatively easily and inexpensively with a daily dose of synthetic (artificially manufactured) thyroid hormone.

Thyroid treatment supplies the hormone missing in the body. Organs return to a proper level of stimulation and the child’s body can resume growth and development. In many cases, symptoms that had been distressing improve or disappear after hormone therapy has been begun.

However, if growth or organ development has been delayed due to severe hypothyroidism, the changes may be lifelong. In some of these cases, developmental problems that occurred before treatment was begun cannot be reversed. These problems include mental retardation, shortened body stature, or both.

Need To Know:

Parents and older children should be aware of the symptoms of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism so that they can alert their doctors if symptoms begin to appear.

  • Symptoms of hypothyroidism occur when the body’s need for thyroid hormone increases, and the previously correct dose becomes inadequate. This is the most likely thing to happen among young children who are actively growing and among older children entering puberty. Changes that the individual might notice include feelings of fatigue, new learning problems in school, a slowed heartbeat, intolerance of cold, and constipation.
  • Symptoms of hyperthyroidism occur when the body’s need for thyroid hormone decreases, and the previously correct dose becomes excessive. Changes that the individual might notice include a feeling of nervousness, a rapid heartbeat, intolerance of hot environments, and diarrhea.

Older children should learn that treatment for hypothyroidism becomes easier as they move into adulthood. After the growth and development of childhood and puberty end, most adults enter a long phase of life when their thyroid hormone needs remain relatively stable. Thyroid hormone status does not need to be monitored as frequently, and the individual becomes more able to live life without thinking about the hypothyroidism.


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