​​Thyroid disorde​rs in children

​A quick guide for guardians​​

​What does the thyroid hormone do?

The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate various bodily functions, including me​​tabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. When the thyroid gland malfunctions, it can lead to issues like delayed brain development, growth problems, weight abnormalities, and early or delayed puberty. These lasting complications can be prevented when children receive treatment from experts who possess a thorough understanding of thyroid hormones.

​What are paediatric thyroid disorders?

Thyroid di​​sease may occur when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism). It can also be a result of an autoimmune disorder, cancer, or non-cancerous growths on the thyroid gland. They have metabolic consequences, but more importantly, they may affect the brain, skeleton, and other tissue development.

The most common thyroid disorders in children are:
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Congenital 
  • Acquired Hyperthyroidism, also called Graves’ disease
  • Thyroid nodules
  • Thyroid cancers

​​What are the signs of paediatric thyroid disorder?

Early signs of congenital hypothyroidism can present as jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), excessive sleep, weak muscle tone, cool and pale skin, a swollen tongue, and an enlarged abdomen with a protruding navel. It's important to stress that congenital hypothyroidism is a serious condition requiring immediate treatment. Newborn screening is a standard practice at our institution to identify congenital hypothyroidism in newborns.

 In the case of Hashimoto's thyroiditis, children may exhibit an enlarged thyroid gland and signs of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), such as fatigue, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, and poor growth.

Graves’ Disease is associated with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). In addition to an enlarged thyroid gland, symptoms may include bulging eyes, increased appetite, insomnia, rapid growth, weight loss, and impaired school performance.

When it comes to thyroid cancer, symptoms can vary but may include a lump or nodule in the neck, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, persistent pain in the neck and throat, and in some cases, enlarged lymph nodes. It's important to note that the symptoms of thyroid cancer can overlap with other thyroid conditions, so a medical evaluation is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

What tests detect thyroid disorders? 

The tests used to make a diagnosis include:

1. Blood tests analyze hormone levels in circulation.

2. Special scans to look at the thyroid.​

How are paediatric thyroid disorders treated?

​For children with uncomplicated hypothyroidism, hormone replacement therapy typically serves as the primary treatment modality. Monitoring through periodic blood tests is essential to maintain optimal hormone levels within a prescribed range.

In cases of hyperthyroidism, the choice of treatment hinges upon the underlying etiology of excess hormone production. Often, antithyroid medication is the initial therapeutic approach, intended to inhibit thyroid hormone synthesis.​