Children And Hypothyroidism: Signs, Symptoms And Treatment Options

Health & Medical Blog

Many are unaware that children can also suffer from hypothyroidism, and that the health issues that can arise can be even worse than for adults.  Unfortunately, hypothyroidism is often difficult to detect and sometimes hard to treat. That's why it's important that you understand what hypothyroidism is, what symptoms it presents, and how to treat it for your child.

What Is Hypothyroidism?

The thyroid gland is small and butterfly shaped, and is located in the neck just below the Adam's apple. The gland produces a variety of hormones, primarily thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which regulate functions throughout the body. When not enough thyroid hormone is produced, the entire metabolism in the body slows down. Often, the health issues that arise from hypothyroidism can take years to fully manifest. In rare cases, hypothyroidism can progress to the point that the body can no longer function, and a small percentage of people can slip into a coma or even die.

Hypothyroidism can have a variety of causes, including an autoimmune dysfunction, radiation surgery, medication, iodine deficiency, congenital causes, treatment for hyperthyroidism, and unexplained causes.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

There are a number of common symptoms of hypothyroidism, many of which can be mistaken for other conditions. It's important for parents to look at a variety of symptoms if they suspect hypothyroidism:

  • Fatigue (perhaps the most common symptom)
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Hoarse voice
  • Muscle aches and joint soreness
  • Constipation
  • Increased sensitivity to cold and cold extremities
  • Lower body temperature
  • Thinning hair
  • Poor cognition and impaired memory
  • Depression

However, children and teenagers tend to suffer from other symptoms as well, which include:

  • Slow growth, resulting in children that may be short
  • Poor muscle development
  • Delay of puberty
  • Delays in the development of adult permanent teeth


If you suspect your child may have hypothyroidism, it's important to visit a pediatrician or specialist who can help diagnose your child.  Your doctor will review your child's history, perform a blood test to measure their TSH level, and may also test for the level of thyroxine in the blood. These are the most common tests. Low thyroxine and high TSH are signs of hypothyroidism. TSH is produced by the pituitary in response to underactive thyroid, as it is the hormone responsible for stimulating the thyroid.  


If the doctor makes a diagnosis of hypothyroidism for your child, your child will likely be provided with synthetic hormones such as Levothroid or Synthroid, which deliver the T4 hormone. Prior to the introduction of these synthetic thyroid medications, children and teenagers were often given desiccated thyroid made from a pig's thyroid gland, which delivers both T4 and T3 instead of just T4. Although this has fallen out of favor with the general medical establishment, some doctors still prescribe desiccated thyroid as well, especially if a child has a poor reaction to synthetic thyroid medication.

Your child will also undergo regular blood tests and monitoring to determine whether their treatment is working, and whether their dose needs to be adjusted. 


29 April 2016

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