Hyperthyroidism | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?

Diagnosing hyperthyroidism starts with a complete medical history, followed by a physical exam. Some of the signs that may point to hyperthyroidism are a rapid heartbeat, eye changes, excessive weight loss and overactive reflexes.

To confirm a diagnosis, your child’s doctor will typically:

  • check levels of your child’s thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) with a blood test
  • measure the level of thyroid-stimulating antibodies in your child’s blood/li>
  • perform thyroid imaging studies, such as a thyroid scan to determine the size, shape, function and position of the thyroid gland

How is hyperthyroidism treated?

Infants with neonatal Graves’ disease are typically treated with antithyroid drugs until the mother’s thyroid-stimulating antibodies have been cleared from their circulation. With prompt treatment, babies with hyperthyroidism usually recover completely within a few weeks. However, hyperthyroidism may recur during the first 6 months to 1 year of a baby's life, so it's important to be vigilant.

In older children, the goal of treatment is to restore the thyroid gland to normal function so that it produces normal levels of thyroid hormone.

There are three types of treatment for hyperthyroidism: antithyroid drugs, radioactive iodine and surgery.

Antithyroid drugs work by blocking the thyroid gland’s ability to make thyroid hormone. These drugs do not damage the thyroid gland.

Radioactive iodine iodine is absorbed by the thyroid gland, causing it to shrink. This destroys part of the thyroid gland but does not affect other parts of the body. Your child may need medication to replace the thyroxine that is no longer produced.

Surgery, or removal of part of the thyroid gland, is a rare form of treatment and will require lifelong treatment with medication to replace levels of thyroid hormones.

Does diet affect hyperthyroidism?

Dietary changes will not prevent or cure hyperthyroidism. However, it’s important for your child to follow a healthy and nutrient-rich diet that does not contain excessive amounts of iodine. Since hyperthyroidism can cause unwanted weight loss if not properly treated, always make sure your child is taking in enough healthy calories. The weight loss should stop once the hyperthyroidism is being treated

Does exercise make hyperthyroidism worse?

If your child’s hyperthyroidism is not properly under control, they might experience rapid heart rate or fatigue. Any time your child has these symptoms, contact your doctor right away. Another possible complication of hyperthyroidism is osteoporosis, which leads to brittle bones that are more susceptible to breaks. For these reasons, always ask your child’s doctor for recommendations and guidelines about taking part in sports and play.

Once the hyperthyroidism is being managed, and if there are no other complications, your child will most likely be able to resume their normal physical activities.