Every parent should be aware of low thyroid symptoms in children. This is because recognizing the problem at an early stage can prevent growth abnormalities in children. Read this article to enrich your knowledge about the various signs and symptoms of low thyroid.
Thyroid is a gland located at the front of the neck very close to the voice box. The main function of the thyroid gland is controlling the metabolism of the body which is necessary for life. This gland utilizes the iodine present in the body to produce an important hormone named thyroxin. It is this thyroid hormone which is responsible for regulation of metabolism of each and every cell and tissue of the body. When we are talking about low thyroid, it means that the level of thyroid hormone in the body is less than normal. This condition arises when the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones. The medical term used for low thyroid is hypothyroidism. It is also referred to as underactive thyroid.
Low thyroid in babies and children is not as common as in adults but it can affect them too. Studies have found that one out of 1000 children may have this medical problem. Low thyroid or hypothyroidism in children is often categorized into three different types. One is congenital hypothyroidism where a baby is born with underactive thyroid gland. It can be found in those babies who have an underdeveloped thyroid gland by birth or do not have the thyroid gland in their body. Another form is transient hypothyroidism where the child has underactive thyroid only for a brief period of time.
It is found particularly in those babies whose mother had the problem of low thyroid during pregnancy. The third one is acquired hypothyroidism which affects older children and teens. As the name suggests, the child develops low thyroid at a later stage of life. It is triggered by an autoimmune condition because of which their immune system produces certain antibodies that attack the healthy tissues of the thyroid gland by mistake.
Babies who are born with underactive thyroid appear normal and usually do not show any symptoms at all soon after birth. It is only after a few days of birth that one or more of the following signs of low thyroid are observed in them:
- Puffy face
- Enlarged tongue
- Hoarse cry
- Protruding navel
- Lack of appetite
- Cold hands and feet
- Yellowing of skin and eyes (or jaundice)
- Slow pulse
Low thyroid brings about lots of changes upon the physical health, behavior, growth and development of children. Some distinctive characteristics of underactive thyroid in children are as follows:
- Lack of energy
- Constant drowsiness
- Big swollen face
- Dry pale skin
- Droopy eyelids
- Dry, coarse hair
- Intolerance towards cold
- Weight gain for no definite reason
- Slurred speech
- Delay in tooth development
- Slow growth gives them an abnormally short stature
- Delay in onset of puberty
- Mental retardation
A blood test is conducted for the diagnosis of low thyroid in children. Today, this particular blood test is compulsory for every newborn baby so that neonatal hypothyroidism can be detected at an early stage. Once the test report confirms that the level of thyroid hormone in blood is low, doctors proceed with the treatment to restore adequate level of thyroid hormone in the body. They prescribe synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine for this purpose.
The dosage of this hormone replacement thyroid medicine depends on the deficiency of the hormone in the body. Within one or two weeks of the treatment, the level of thyroid hormone increases and the severity of symptoms in children becomes less. Gradually, the symptoms disappear completely. However, the child has to undergo the treatment for the entire life. He has to go for check up from time to time as recommended by the doctor who may change the dose of the medicine as per the requirement of the child’s body.
Some low thyroid symptoms in children like slow growth in terms of height or mental retardation are observed only in those children who are not treated at the right time. Other children who have received timely treatment can lead a normal life without any trouble.