Hypothyroidism in infants and children

Thyroid gland problems are occasionally seen in children but the condition, also known as hypothyroidism in children is not common. About one in four thousand infants are found to have the condition. This disease can result in a slow down of the child’s mental and physical development if not treated. Thyroid gland disease affects newborn as well as older children and treatment is the same for any age.

Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight Gain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Depression
  • Slow speech
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle or dry hair
  • Constipation
  • Muscular cramps
  • Poor mental and school performance
  • Slow development of teeth
  • Delay in puberty]
  • Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland in front of neck)

There is a fairly common problem of the thyroid gland called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis that is considered to be to blame for many cases of infant hypothyroidism. This may also be called juvenile hypothyroidism and this is thought to be inherited. If a mother had thyroid issues when she was pregnant that was most likely due to her hormones being off balance and this would not be carried down to the baby unless she went untreated. If hypothyroidism went untreated in a pregnant mom this may result in learning and developmental disabilities after her child is born.

A visit to a Pediatric Endocrinologist will help answer many questions regarding hypothyroidism in children.

Children and infants with hypothyroidism

There are several types of hyperthyroidism found in small children or infants that are considered congenital or inherited.

  • Congenital Hypothyroidism (CH) is present from birth and by far the most common at ninety percent of total cases found. The thyroid gland itself may be out of place, underdeveloped, or failing to produce hormones.
  • A transient form of CH occurs in about ten percent of the cases noted and is temporary or transient. Most likely the mother was treated for Graves’ Disease (hyperthyroidism) while pregnant. This form usually goes away within a few months.
  • Lastly there is a form of hypothyroidism in children that is considered to be an acquired disease and this affects mostly older children (more commonly found in girls than boys). This form typically results from an autoimmune thyroid disease like Hashimoto’s disease and is typically found in children of puberty age or younger.

Detecting hypothyroidism disease in children

There is a very common test method that includes checking for thyroid diseases and that is the PKU (phenylketonuria) blood test. That will test for several maladies that affect infants and is done shortly after birth.

As infants typically don’t show an significant symptoms of thyroid disease, they may have it for months without any treatment, making those early tests vital. One method of determining if the infant has hypothyroidism is to x-ray their legs and knee area as the knee will be underdeveloped if there is hypothyroidism in children present. Taking a scan of the thyroid gland, in an infant who displays symptoms of thyroid disease, may determine whether the gland is improperly located, malformed, or even absent. Testing such as above can be done before the baby is sent home.