Acquired Hypothyroidism In Children

What is acquired hypothyroidism?

Acquired hypothyroidism is a condition that develops when your child's thyroid gland makes little or no thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones help control body temperature, heart rate, and how your child gains or loses weight. Thyroid hormones play an important role in normal growth and development of children. Acquired hypothyroidism usually affects children starting at 6 months of age. Some children who have hypothyroidism when they are born only show signs and symptoms much later in childhood.

What causes acquired hypothyroidism?

The following conditions may cause or increase your child's risk of acquired hypothyroidism:

  • Autoimmune disease: A problem with your child's immune system may make his body attack his thyroid gland. Autoimmune thyroiditis is the most common autoimmune disease that causes acquired hypothyroidism.

  • Family history: Your child's risk is greater if a family member has hypothyroidism or an autoimmune disease.

  • Medicines: Certain medications can cause hypothyroidism. Ask your child's caregiver if any of the medicines your child takes can cause hypothyroidism.

  • Treatments: Radiation therapy used to treat cancers of the head and neck can destroy your child's thyroid gland. Thyroid surgery makes him more likely to develop hypothyroidism.

  • Other diseases or conditions: An enlarged or swollen thyroid, lumps caused by infections, or thyroid cancer can affect how your child's thyroid works.

  • Low iodine levels: The thyroid gland uses iodine to work correctly and to make thyroid hormones.

What are the signs and symptoms of acquired hypothyroidism?

The signs and symptoms of acquired hypothyroidism may be different depending on your child's age.

  • Early signs and symptoms:

    • Bulging soft mass in the belly

    • Coarse or dull-looking facial features

    • Delay or failure in growth and development

    • Dry, flaky skin or brittle fingernails

    • Hoarseness and a large tongue

  • Later signs and symptoms:

    • Depression, fatigue, or irritability

    • Sensitivity to cold

    • Learning, speech, or behavior problems

    • Constipation

    • Delay in sexual development

    • Swelling of his whole body, very slow heartbeat, and trouble breathing

How is acquired hypothyroidism diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your child's symptoms and examine him. He will ask what medicines your child takes. You may also be asked about your child's medical history and if anyone in his family has hypothyroidism. He may have blood tests to check his thyroid hormone level.

How is acquired hypothyroidism treated?

Thyroid medicine will bring your child's thyroid hormone level back to normal. Ask your child's caregiver for more information on other medicines your child may need.

What are the risks of acquired hypothyroidism?

Without treatment, your child may have learning problems, poor growth and intelligence, or mental retardation. Your child may also develop myxedema, which is a dangerous condition. Myxedema may cause swelling in your child's legs, ankles, lungs, or around his heart. He may have seizures, or go into a deep coma, and die if he does not get medical care quickly.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child has chills, a cough, or feels weak and achy.

  • Your child has pain, redness, and swelling in his muscles and joints.

  • Your child's skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.

  • Your child does not have any more thyroid medicine, or he has stopped taking it.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or medicines.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek help immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child is becomes nervous or restless.

  • Your child has choking episodes or sudden trouble breathing.

  • Your child has diarrhea, tremors, or trouble sleeping.

  • Your child has swelling around his eyes, or in his legs, ankles, or feet.

  • Your child faints or has a seizure.

  • Your child's signs and symptoms return or become worse.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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