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TSH Levels in Children

TSH Levels in Children

Measurement of TSH levels in children helps diagnose thyroid disorders. Read on to know what is the normal TSH level for babies and children, and what do high and low TSH levels indicate...
Leena Palande
TSH stands for thyroid stimulating hormone. This hormone is released by the anterior pituitary gland to stimulate the thyroid gland. TSH levels are inversely proportional to thyroid hormone (T3 and T4) levels. Normal levels of TSH in infants and kids vary according to the age.
Normal TSH Levels in Children
  • Premature babies (TSH is measured 3-4 days after birth): Between 0.8 to 6.9 µU/ml.
  • Normal newborn infants (TSH measured 4 days after birth): Between 1.3 to 16 µU/ml.
  • Babies (1-11 months): 0.9 to 7.7 µU/ml.
  • Kids (1 year till the onset of puberty): 0.6 to 5.5 µU/ml.
  • Children after reaching puberty and adults: 0.5 to 4.8 µU/ml.
The normal range of TSH for adults is considered 0.5 to 5.0 mlU/L, but some laboratories and doctors consider 0.3 and 3.0 mlU/L as the normal TSH level range for adults as they follow the recent official updates. So, normal TSH levels in kids and adults may vary slightly from lab to lab or from country to country.
Symptoms of High TSH in Children
If the thyroid gland becomes under-active, the pituitary gland releases more TSH to stimulate the gland. Thus, high levels of TSH mainly indicate an under-active thyroid. The condition is called hypothyroidism. An under-active thyroid produces an insufficient amount of thyroid hormones.
Mother's thyroid disorder treatment, or production of antibodies against the thyroid due to autoimmune reaction in the body, or structural deformities in thyroid, can lead to an under-active thyroid. Sometimes, the thyroid function returns to normal after a few days. This condition is called transient hypothyroidism and no long term treatment is required for this condition. Exposure to anti-thyroid medications, or iodine deficiency in the womb can lead to hypothyroidism in children. The symptoms may vary according to the cause and age of the child. Moreover, the symptoms may vary from child to child or the condition can even be asymptomatic.
Common symptoms of elevated TSH in infants and children are:
  • Hoarse cry
  • Poor appetite
  • Navel protrudes out
  • Constipation
  • Slow/delayed growth, abnormally short limbs
  • Delayed tooth development
  • Delayed puberty
  • Slow speech
  • Slow pulse
  • Dry mouth, Dry skin
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Puffy face
Treatment depends upon the cause and extent of the disease. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can result in mental retardation. Sometimes a tumor in the pituitary gland affects the TSH levels adversely. As the hormones released by the hypothalamus control the release of TSH from the pituitary, hypothalamus disorder can also affect TSH levels in children. In case of hypothyroidism, the child usually needs lifetime treatment.
Symptoms of Low TSH in Children
If the thyroid gland becomes overactive and starts producing more T3 and T4, then release of TSH is restricted by the pituitary gland. Thus, low TSH in children indicates an overactive thyroid. The condition is known as hyperthyroidism. It is less common than hypothyroidism.
The symptoms are:
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Low concentration
  • Profuse sweating
  • Flushed skin
  • Nervousness
  • Swollen neck, due to enlarged thyroid known as goiter
Anti-thyroid drugs are given to slow down thyroid activity. Medication helps cancel the effect of T3 and T4 on the tissues. Sometimes, surgical removal of some part of the thyroid gland helps cure hyperthyroidism. Treatment depends upon the cause, severity of the condition, and age of the child.
TSH levels in children may get affected due to pituitary dysfunction. As the pituitary gland controls the function of various other glands, treatment has to be designed very carefully. Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Grave's disease, can affect the levels of TSH. A simple blood test helps measure the amount of TSH in blood, and helps diagnose thyroid disorders. If parents notice any of the symptoms, that are mentioned above, in their child, they should immediately consult their physician.