If your child is suddenly gaining or losing weight, has become irritable or depressed and is having trouble concentrating in school, it may be time to call the doctor. While these changes can be sparked by any number of events, they can be symptoms of an overactive thyroid—a condition known as hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland makes too much thyroxine (the hormone responsible for managing metabolism). This leads to an increased metabolism and affects many cells and tissues throughout the body, including the brain, heart, bone, skin and intestinal tract.

  • In infants younger than 3, too much thyroid hormone can result in cognitive delay.
  • Hyperthyroidism is less common in children and adolescents than it is in adults.
  • In older children, the most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease an autoimmune disorder in which a child’s immune system erroneously attacks his thyroid gland..
  • In newborns, the most common cause of an overactive thyroid is neonatal Graves’ disease, which is a temporary condition.

How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches hyperthyroidism

The Thyroid Program at Boston Children's Hospital is one of the only centers in the United States devoted exclusively to the care of children with thyroid disease. Our clinicians and staff are not only dedicated, experienced clinicians; they are also involved in numerous studies about the various aspects of thyroid disease and thyroid function in childhood.?
The program assists kids of all ages with hyperthyroidism—as well as their families—by providing:
comprehensive diagnostic and evaluation services
child- and family-centered treatment plans
long-term monitoring and follow-up

In addition, Children’s Thyroid Program clinicians work closely with other thyroid specialists across the greater Boston area, including experts at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

A very special center for pediatric autoimmune disease? The Samara Jan Turkel Clinical Center for Pediatric Autoimmune Disease at Children’s is the first of its kind in the country providing comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plans, along with clinical care for outpatient and inpatient treatment. Read more.

Reviewed by Ari Wassner, MD