How thyroid disease affects kids
Though not always associated with kids, thyroid problems can be a major issue for young people.
“There are two different types of thyroid disease. One where the thyroid gland is overactive (or hyperthyroidism) and one where it is underactive (hypothyroidism),” Dr. Viswanathan explains.
“Children with hyperthyroidism are often “revved up” meaning that their body’s metabolism is increased,” she says. “These children have symptoms of difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. They are often hyperactive. They have weight loss because their body’s metabolism is increased.”
The thyroid gland is a major part of the endocrine system that has to do with body temperature, heart rate, metabolism and how it reacts to other hormones. When we think about our thyroid gland, we often associate it with weight gain or loss, Dr. Viswanathan says.
Dr. Viswanathan says that hyperthyroidism has a tendency to create weight loss, and underactive thyroids could lead to difficulty growing.
“In children, unlike adults, an underactive thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism, usually manifests as a failure to gain height so should be considered in any child who is growing poorly,” she says. “Other symptoms include: constipation, dry skin, and general feelings of fatigue/tiredness. Some teachers may say that the child is falling asleep in school.”
She also says that children with underactive thyroids have a small tendency to gain weight; however the extent of gaining weight is much higher for adults.
When looking for common symptoms, abnormal growth or puberty that begins too late or early are things to look out for, according to Dr. Viswanathan.
“Generally most endocrine conditions in children present with a decrease in linear height, meaning an inability to gain height over time,” Dr. Viswanathan says. “These conditions include growth hormone deficiency and hypothyroidism. When you think of children and how they change over time, I think of growing properly and going through puberty normally as a sign of wellness.”
Other glands that can be impacted through hormone abnormalities are the pituitary glands, pancreas, ovaries and testicles and the parathyroid glands.
Dr. Viswanathan suggests that if you have any concerns regarding your child’s growth to talk to your child’s physician for an evaluation.
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