• 25 Feb - 03 Mar, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly

Understand the thyroid’s role in regulating hormones and growth and common thyroid issues in children

Many parents are surprised to find that thyroid disorders are the most prevalent endocrine illness among school-age children because thyroid problems are frequently associated with adults. Nearly 37 children per 1,000 are thought to have thyroid illness. The thyroid hormones are essential for all bodily cells to function normally. Depending on the sort of thyroid illness a child has, thyroid problems in children can have a variety of effects on the body. Read on to find out more about the function of the thyroid in the body and the most typical disorders that affect children's thyroids.

What does the thyroid do?

In the neck, there lies a little yet potent gland called the thyroid. Numerous suppliers state that it is situated just below the Adam's apple, in front of the neck, where a bow tie would sit. All of the body's cells receive thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland. These hormones assist and regulate growth, puberty, and a variety of other body functions.

What are common thyroid problems in children?

The two most common thyroid problems in children are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism in children

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid doesn't send out enough hormones to the body. Thyroid hormones regulate many of the body's functions, including the body's metabolism. When there aren't enough hormones, systems in the body can start to slow down. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism in children include:

• Constipation

• Dry skin

• Fatigue

• Feeling cold

• Hair loss

• Irregular menstrual periods (in girls)

• Poor memory or trouble concentrating

• Slowed growth

• Sluggishness

Hypothyroidism can be congenital, which means babies are born with it. Newborn screenings at birth check for hypothyroidism in infants. Hypothyroidism can also be acquired, developing in late childhood or in the teenage years. One of the most common causes of low thyroids level is thyroiditis (Hashimoto's disease), an autoimmune disease named after the physician who discovered the condition. The disease attacks the thyroid and damages the gland.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is very common in girls, with about 1 in 300 girls diagnosed with it. It's not quite as common in boys with about 1 in 1,000 boys being affected by it.

Hyperthyroidism in children

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid is overactive and sends too much thyroid hormone into the body. This can cause the body to "speed up," meaning an increase in the body's metabolism. Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism in children include:

• Diarrhea

• Difficulty concentrating

• Feeling hot

• Growth acceleration

• Huge appetite

• Irregular menstrual cycles (in girls)

• Irritability

• Muscle weakness

• Tremors (typically in the hands)

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to make antibodies that tell the body to make more thyroid hormone than is needed. Other causes of hyperthyroidism also include inflammation and nodules in the thyroid gland.

Complications of thyroid disease in children include:

Slow growth: Children with thyroid disease may not reach optimal height if the thyroid condition is not treated before adolescence.

Delayed puberty: Delayed puberty can manifest with delayed menstruation and slow development of sexual characteristics in boys and girls.

Myxedema: Severe hypothyroidism can cause a condition called myxedema, which is characterized by skin swelling.

Fertility problems: Boys and girls who have thyroid disease can have problems with infertility in later life. Women who become pregnant can also experience complications during pregnancy and delivery.?

Heart problems: High blood pressure, arrhythmias (heartbeat irregularities) and heart failure are all associated with chronic thyroid problems.

If you are a parent of a child who has thyroid disease, the complications can seem alarming. While thyroid disease can be a lifelong condition, these complications can be prevented with appropriate treatment and consistent management of thyroid hormone levels.

How are thyroid disorders diagnosed in kids?

Pediatricians are the first line of defense if parents suspect their child may have a thyroid problem. Thyroid disorders in children are becoming so common that checking thyroid levels is now a standard part of a well-child exam. Patients are typically diagnosed with a thyroid problem based on a simple blood test that checks their thyroid hormone levels. If your child has a thyroid problem, an endocrinologist will work with your child and family to understand the cause of the issue and create a treatment plan to help regulate the thyroid disorder.