While thyroid problems are frequently associated with adults, it can occur in children as well. Depending on the sort of thyroid disease a child has, thyroid problems in children can have a variety of effects on the child’s body. Most often, the signs of thyroid disorders among children are asymptomatic. At other times, signs may be hard to recognise because many of the symptoms are experienced as a part of normal development during these childhood years.
What exactly does the thyroid do?
Your child’s gland is a small, but powerful butterfly-shaped gland located directly in front of the neck, below the Adam’s apple. Thyroid gland releases hormones that are distributed to all cells in the body. Hormones produced by the thyroid are essential for all bodily cells to function normally and affect all aspects of your child’s health. They are crucial in supporting and regulating growth, puberty, and the body’s metabolism.
Continue reading to learn about the thyroid’s role in the body and the most common types of thyroid conditions in children.
What are common thyroid problems in children?
The thyroid is an important gland in the body, and problems with this gland is more common than you think: The most common thyroid problems in children are:
Other, less common thyroid issues in children also include thyroid nodules, which are all treatable.
Hypothyroidism in Children
Hypothyroidism occurs when the gland does not produce enough hormones (underactive). Thyroid hormones control many of the body’s functions, including metabolism. When there aren’t enough hormones, the body’s systems can begin to slow down.
Signs of Hypothyroidism in Children
Symptoms of hypothyroidism in older children and adolescents are usually subtle and gradual, and include:
· Frequent constipation
· Dry, pale or blotchy skin
· Fatigue and/or exercise intolerance
· Cold hands or feet
· Inability to tolerate the cold temperature
· Irregular menstrual periods (in girls)
· Poor memory or trouble concentrating
· Slowed growth
· Droopy eyelids
· Puffy and swollen face
Hyperthyroidism in Children
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid becomes overactive and releases an excessive amount of thyroid hormone into the body. This can cause the body to ‘speed up,’ which means that its metabolism will increase.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism in Children
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism in older children and adolescents include:
· Wide eyed stare
· Crying easily
· Rapid heart rate
· Short attention span
· Feeling hot
· Growth acceleration
· Excessive hunger
· Fast breathing
· Irregular menstrual cycles (in girls)
· Irritability, or excitability
· Muscle weakness
· Tremors (typically in the hands)
For children, chronic thyroid disease can produce issues with development, particularly if they are not treated. There may also be an increased risk of certain types of thyroid cancer among children who have non-cancerous thyroid disease.
Complications of thyroid disease in children include:
· Growth retardation
· Delayed puberty
· Myxedema (a condition characterized by skin swelling)
· Fertility problems
· Cardiac problems
· Delayed skeletal maturation
If you have a child with this disease, the condition and its associated complications can be frightening. While thyroid disease can be a lifelong condition, the good news is that these complications can be avoided with proper treatment and consistent thyroid hormone management.
How are thyroid disorders in children diagnosed?
Thyroid disorders in children are becoming increasingly common, and thyroid levels are now routinely checked as part of an overall wellness test. Diagnostic evaluation of a thyroid problem is typically based on a simple thyroid function screening blood test that measures certain hormones like thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) or thyroxine (T4).
· Children with hypothyroidism will usually have a low free thyroxine level (free T4) and an elevated level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
· Children with hyperthyroidism will usually have a high T4 and triiodothyronine (T3) and a low level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
Thyroid problems are frequently inherited, so talk to your paediatrician about how frequently you should schedule thyroid screening tests for your child if you have a family history of these conditions. If you notice that your child exhibits some or many of these symptoms, it is best to make a doctor’s appointment so that the cause can be identified and treated.
A paediatric endocrinologist or a paediatrician in collaboration with a paediatric endocrinologist will work with your child to determine the root cause and develop a treatment plan to help regulate the thyroid disorder.