Thyroid problems in children is not a rare condition, but it is not as common as one would assume. As a parent, guardian or teacher, you need to be aware of the symptoms of thyroid problems. Get some useful information in the following article regarding this…
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the throat, and secretes hormones that control the body’s metabolism and energy production. These hormones are very important for the growth and development of children.
Types of Thyroid Problems
Malfunctioning of the thyroid gland, can be broadly classified into hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland is overactive, and secretes more than required amounts of thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism is the opposite case, wherein the thyroid gland does not release the required amounts of hormones into the bloodstream.
Conditions Related to Hyperthyroidism
Neonatal Hyperthyroidism: As the name suggests, it refers to an overactive thyroid gland in newborns. This condition occurs very rarely, especially if the mother is affected with Grave’s disease. The symptoms are similar to those in adults, and include high heart rate, irritability, flushed skin, increase in appetite, and failure to gain weight. Anti-thyroid treatment for a short-term will be successful in treatment of neonatal hyperthyroidism.
Graves’ Disease: Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in children and adolescents. The body produces antibodies that cause an abnormal stimulation of the thyroid gland. The symptoms include hyperactivity, restlessness, short attention span, etc. An enlarged thyroid gland with fast pulse, heat intolerance, weight loss, accelerated growth, muscle weakness, diarrhea, sleep disorders, and behavioral problems are also observed.
Conditions Related to Hypothyroidism
Congenital Hypothyroidism: It is observed in 1 of every 4000 newborns, and results because the thyroid glands do not develop normally. In some infants, the thyroid gland is absent, leading to congenital hypothyroidism or cretinism. The symptoms include poor feeding, constipation, low body temperature, slow pulse, prolonged jaundice, decreased crying, increase in sleep periods, etc.
A few weeks after the birth, the baby shows dry skin, poor muscle tone, slow tendon reflexes, hoarse crying, enlarged tongue, puffiness, umbilical hernia, as well as poor growth and development. Treatment involves hormone replacement therapy. However, the child may have already developed a permanent brain damage, especially if it is a case of Down syndrome.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, this is an autoimmune disease wherein the immune system abnormally attacks the thyroid gland. This condition can occur at any age, and the symptoms may take years to develop. The initial symptoms include delay in skeletal development, inflammation of thyroid gland, dry itchy skin, weight gain, swelling, poor concentration, constipation, and low energy levels. These children need to undergo hormone replacement therapy for their entire life.
Thyroid disorders are a result of several environmental as well as genetic factors, and cannot be traced to a single cause. Children or grandchildren of individuals suffering from thyroid problems are more likely to develop this condition. Many times, a fully developed thyroid gland is not able to produce appropriate amounts of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is one of the leading causes in developing countries.
The general symptoms associated with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism have been listed below.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in Children
- Cold hands and feet
- Dry skin
- Weak muscles
- Herniated belly button
- Hoarse cry
- Weight gain
- Pale skin color
- Persistent constipation and bloating
- Poor feeding
- Prolonged jaundice
- Puffy face
- Sensitivity to cold
- Slow growth
- Swollen tongue
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism in Children
- Excessive fatigue
- Hair loss
- Irregular or lack of menstruation (in case of adolescent girls)
- Mood swings
- Increased appetite
- Shaky hands
- Reduced concentration
The treatment is depends on the precise condition and hormone levels. In case the child suffers from symptoms of hyperthyroidism, the doctor may decide on medications that help control the thyroid production. Hypothyroidism is easier to manage and control. With proper treatment, most of the symptoms disappear.
It is very important to get infants and children checked for hyperthyroidism, if there is a history of thyroid problems in the family.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.