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Congenital Hypothyroidism In Children


What is congenital hypothyroidism?

Congenital hypothyroidism is a condition that is present at birth. Your child may be born without a thyroid gland, or his thyroid gland may not make enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones help control body temperature, heart rate, growth, and how you gain or lose weight. In children, thyroid hormones play an important role in normal growth and development.

What causes congenital hypothyroidism?

The cause of congenital hypothyroidism is not known. The following conditions may increase your child's risk of congenital hypothyroidism:

  • Family history: Your child's risk is greater if a family member has hypothyroidism or an autoimmune disease.
  • Medicines: Certain medicines taken during pregnancy may cause your child to have hypothyroidism. Ask your healthcare provider if any of the medicines you are taking can cause hypothyroidism.
  • Other diseases or conditions: Your child may have a genetic disorder or a disease that causes hypothyroidism.
  • Low iodine levels: Iodine is an important mineral used by the thyroid gland to work correctly and make thyroid hormones. Low iodine levels during your pregnancy increases your child's risk of hypothyroidism.

What are the signs and symptoms of congenital hypothyroidism?

Signs and symptoms of congenital hypothyroidism may be present shortly after birth or during infancy. Newborn babies may show no obvious signs and symptoms. During your child's first weeks of life, he may have a number of signs and symptoms. At ages 1 to 6 months, your child's signs and symptoms may become worse and more obvious.

  • Early signs and symptoms:
    • Bulging abdomen
    • Low body temperature
    • Larger than normal fontanelles (soft spots on the skull)
    • Poor feeding
    • Swelling of the eyelids, hands, or feet
    • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Later signs and symptoms:
    • Darkened, blotched, or dry skin
    • Decreased activity and increased sleep
    • Large tongue, hoarse crying, or trouble breathing
    • Not able to gain weight
    • Constipation
    • Older children may be shorter than what is expected for their age

How is congenital hypothyroidism diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider 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 congenital hypothyroidism treated?

Thyroid hormones are given to replace and raise your child's hormone levels back to normal.

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 healthcare provider?

  • 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 without his healthcare provider's advice.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • 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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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