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.