Thyroid disorders in children – a quick guide

Written by: Dr Rajiv Goonetilleke
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Thyroid disorders in children are mostly the result of an autoimmune disease. Antibodies are formed against the thyroid gland and these affect the function of the gland. They either produce too much thyroid hormone, leading to thyrotoxicosis or do not produce enough, which leads to hypothyroidism.

One of our top paediatricians Dr Rajiv Goonetilleke holds a special interest in paediatric endocrinology. Here, he explains the signs of thyrotoxicosis and hypothyroidism to look out for and, if your child has been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, whether it will affect their quality of life.

How do thyroid disorders affect children?

Low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism) can affect children in many ways, including failure to grow in height, putting on too much weight, constipation, feeling cold when others are not and problems with periods in girls.

Too much thyroid hormone (thyrotoxicosis) causes rapid growth and the child is not putting on weight or they are losing weight despite eating more than usual. They may feel hot when others are not, appear restless and are not able to sleep well at night.

How is a thyroid disorder detected in a child?

Sometimes children are born with an abnormal or non-functioning thyroid gland. Usually, this is picked up by the neonatal screening and a heel prick blood test (Guthrie test) done by your midwife.

Thyroid disorders are diagnosed by a simple blood test and treatment is with Levothyroxine, which is available as a small tablet that can be crushed if required. This is taken daily for hypothyroidism.

For overactive (hyperthyroidism) diagnosis is also made by a blood test and can also be managed by tablets.

What is the outlook for a child diagnosed with a thyroid disorder?

Children with thyroid disorders can have a normal and happy childhood when managed appropriately.


Do not hesitate to book an appointment for your child to see Dr Goonetilleke if you are noticing the symptoms of thyroid disorder and would like an expert opinion.

By Dr Rajiv Goonetilleke

Dr Rajiv Goonetilleke is a highly esteemed and mightily experienced general paediatrician with a special interest in paediatric endocrinology; the field of medicine regarding glands and hormone production in children. He also specialises in thyroid problems, asthma, urinary tract infections in children, growth disorders, bedwetting, and abdominal pain

Dr Goonetilleke also possesses a high degree of expertise when it comes to all general paediatric conditions including coughswheezeshay fever, and constipation. He attends to children of all ages, from birth up to the age of 18. His interests in endocrinology have led him to obtain a wealth of knowledge in the conditions of children's thyroid disorders, delayed pubertyearly puberty, weight disordersdiabetes and polycystic ovarian disease.

He currently practices at Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital, Cambridge, and Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital, Leicester. Furthermore, he holds two current NHS posts: one at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, where he is the clinical lead for diabetes and paediatric endocrinology, and another at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, where he is an honorary visiting specialist. He has, thus far in his medical career, published an extensive amount of peer-reviewed articles. 

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