Hypothyroidism Symptoms & Causes

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In-Depth

What causes hypothyroidism in children?

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is the body's autoimmune reaction producing antibodies against the thyroid gland. A mother's thyroid disorder treatment (such as iodine) or maternal antithyroid antibodies can affect her unborn child's thyroid function.

What is transient hypothyroidism?

Some newborns may have abnormal thyroid hormone levels at birth, which eventually stabilize and become normal.

  • These children are said to have transient hypothyroidism as a result of exposure to antithyroid medications, maternal antithyroid antibodies or an iodine deficiency in the womb.
     
  • Thyroid function in these children usually returns to normal and doesn’t require long-term treatment.

What is congenital hypothyroidism?

Congenital hypothyroidism (CH) means the disorder is present at birth. About 1,400 per 5,000,000 newborns are diagnosed with CH shortly after birth each year.

  • CH is one of the most common, preventable causes of mental retardation. Children in the US are tested for the disorder during their standard newborn screening.
     
  • In about 10 percent cases, congenital hypothyroidism is inherited by an autosomal recessive gene, which means that two copies of the gene are necessary to produce the condition and both males and females are equally affected.
     
  • Most children born with CH appear normal at birth, possibly because the maternal thyroid hormones have sustained the infant's normal thyroid function in the womb.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism in children?

The symptoms of hypothyroidism in children are different than in adults. Each child may experience symptoms differently, and often the symptoms are not seen at all. This is why all infants should be screened for low thyroid.

Symptoms in newborns (neonatal hypothyroidism) may include:

  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes)
  • hoarse cry
  • poor appetite
  • umbilical hernia (navel protrudes out)
  • constipation
  • slow bone growth

Childhood (juvenile hypothyroidism):

  • slow growth, sometimes resulting in abnormally short limbs
  • delayed tooth development

Adolescents (adolescent hypothyroidism):

  • slow growth
  • delayed puberty
  • hoarse voice
  • slow speech
  • droopy eyelids
  • puffy and swollen face
  • hair loss
  • dry skin
  • slow pulse
  • weight gain
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