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Thyroid Disorders (Pediatric)

What are thyroid disorders?

The thyroid gland controls the body’s metabolism and is essential for brain development.

Congenital hypothyroidism is a serious condition affecting newborns. It occurs in between 1 in 2000 and 1 in 4000 infants.

Other thyroid diseases affecting children include Hashimoto's thyroiditis and less commonly, Grave's disease.

What are the symptoms of thyroid disorders?

Early signs of congenital hypothyroidism include yellow skin or eyes jaundice), excessive sleep, weak muscle tone, skin that is cool and pale, a swollen tongue, and a large belly with a protruding navel. Congenital hypothyroidism is a serious condition, requiring immediate treatment.

Children with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have an enlarged thyroid gland and symptoms an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism). These include fatigue, constipation, dry skin, weight gain and poor growth.

Graves’ Disease is less common than Hashimoto’s and is associated with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Along with an enlarged thyroid gland, symptoms include bulging eyes, increased hunger, insomnia, rapid growth, weight loss, and poor performance in school.

How are thyroid disorders diagnosed?

These conditions are detected by history, physical exam and blood test, and also by the New York State Newborn Screening Program, a public health initiative.

How are thyroid disorders treated?

Infants with congenital hypothyroidism must be treated right away with thyroid replacement therapy.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is often managed with a daily thyroid replacement medication. When a child does not respond to this approach, the next line of treatment is usually radioactive iodine therapy or surgery.

Treatment for Graves' disease includes antithyroid drugs (ATDs) that block thyroid hormone production. Symptoms generally subside within six to eight weeks. If not the, next line of treatment is radioactive iodine therapy or surgery.