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Your Child's Health, Our Priority, Always

Pediatric Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, a condition characterized by an underactive thyroid gland, is common in adults but can also affect children. The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism, growth, and development, making thyroid hormone deficiency particularly impactful during childhood. In this blog, we will explore the nuances of pediatric hypothyroidism, including its causes, symptoms, and approaches to treatment.  

 

Understanding Pediatric Hypothyroidism: 

The thyroid gland, located in the neck, produces hormones (T3 and T4) that are essential for the body’s metabolic processes. In children, thyroid hormones are critical for normal growth and development, including brain development, bone growth, and regulation of energy metabolism. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormones, leading to a range of symptoms and potential complications. 

 

Causes of Pediatric Hypothyroidism: 

  • Congenital hypothyroidism: This condition, present at birth, occurs when the thyroid gland fails to develop properly or produces insufficient thyroid hormones. It may be due to genetic factors, thyroid gland dysgenesis, or maternal thyroid disorders during pregnancy. 
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland, can lead to hypothyroidism in children. 
  • Iodine deficiency: In regions with inadequate dietary iodine intake, iodine deficiency can impair thyroid hormone production and contribute to hypothyroidism. 
  • Radiation therapy or surgery: Treatment for certain cancers or thyroid conditions may involve radiation therapy or surgical removal of the thyroid gland, which can result in hypothyroidism. 
  • Medications: Some medications, such as lithium and others, can interfere with thyroid hormone production and lead to hypothyroidism as a side effect.

 

Symptoms of Pediatric Hypothyroidism: 

The symptoms of hypothyroidism in children can vary depending on the age of onset, severity of hormone deficiency, and individual factors. Common symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue or sluggishness 
  • Poor growth or short stature 
  • Delayed puberty 
  • Constipation 
  • Dry skin and hair 
  • Cold intolerance 
  • Weight gain 
  • Hoarse voice 
  • Cognitive impairment or learning difficulties 
  • Behavioral changes or depression 

Because some symptoms of hypothyroidism can be subtle or nonspecific, the condition may go undiagnosed or mistaken for other health issues without proper evaluation. Hence screening at various ages is also recommended. 

 

Treatment of Pediatric Hypothyroidism: 

The cornerstone of treatment for pediatric hypothyroidism is thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Synthetic thyroid hormone medication, typically levothyroxine, is prescribed to supplement the deficient thyroid hormones and restore normal levels in the body. The dosage of levothyroxine is adjusted based on the child’s age, weight, and thyroid function tests, with regular monitoring to ensure optimal hormone levels. With appropriate treatment, children with hypothyroidism can lead healthy, active lives and achieve normal growth and development. 

Pediatric hypothyroidism is a manageable condition with proper diagnosis and treatment. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options, healthcare professionals can work together to recognize and address hypothyroidism in children effectively. Early detection and intervention are crucial for minimizing the impact of hypothyroidism on growth, development, and overall well-being. 

 

If you have questions about pediatric hypothyroidism, please contact one of our board-certified pediatricians by booking a telemedicine appointment.