Thyroid problem in children

Dr. Pradeep JainMD,MBBS,MD - Pediatrics

December 05, 2018

March 06, 2020

Thyroid problem in children
Thyroid problem in children

What is thyroid problem in children?

Thyroid problems are rarer in children than in adults, although they are not completely uncommon. The symptoms and features are largely similar in both adults and children, though some glaring differences can be seen. Thyroidism (disease of the thyroid) is either caused due to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) or an overactive one (hyperthyroidism). Symptoms and treatment vary depending on the type of the thyroid problem experienced.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

There are two major conditions observed when children and adolescents suffer from thyroid problems. The signs and symptoms for each are fairly distinct:

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: In this condition, there is a clearly observed decrease in the growth rate, normally accompanied by a swelling in the neck, typical of a condition called goitre. Dryness and itching of the skin, swelling and weight gain, sensitivity to cold, lack of energy, inability to concentrate and constipation are some tell-tale signs.
  • Grave’s disease: Great bursts of energy and hyperactivity, distractibility, nervousness, accelerated rate of growth, disturbances in behaviour and sleep, racing pulse rate, loss of weight, muscle weakness and diarrhoea are some characteristic symptoms of this condition.

What are its main causes?

Since the two main causes for thyroidism remain either the underactive or overactive thyroid gland, the conditions suffered due to thyroidism also stem from them.

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis occurs when the immune system inhibits the thyroid gland’s production of thyroid hormone by attacking it. It takes a long time for the body to be affected, causing the condition to go undiagnosed for a long time until symptoms become much more apparent.
  • Grave’s disease is an autoimmune condition where antibodies, that are produced, cause an extreme stimulation of the thyroid gland, resulting in the production of excessive thyroid hormone.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

For any case related to a thyroid problem, the primary diagnostic step is a blood sample collected to determine levels of thyroid hormones and the thyroid stimulating hormone. Screening of the patient along with a physical examination helps determine the symptoms present and validates the presence of the condition.

Treatment varies for each of the conditions.

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: Hormone replacement is prescribed for life. The dosage varies with levels of thyroid functioning, so that hormone levels may be maintained.
  • Grave’s disease: Antithyroid drugs are begun immediately, and are prescribed for a period until the condition stabilises. In certain extreme cases, surgical removal may be the last resort. Thyroid levels and symptoms are regularly monitored throughout treatment.


  1. American Thyroid Association. Hypothyroidism in Children and Adolescents. U.S.; [Internet]
  2. Standford Children's Health. Hypothyroidism in Children. Stanford Health Care; [Internet]
  3. Hae Sang Lee et al. The treatment of Graves' disease in children and adolescents. Ann Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Sep; 19(3): 122–126. PMID: 25346915
  4. Elizabeth Eberechi Oyenusi et al. Pattern of Thyroid Disorders in Children and Adolescents Seen at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Nigeria, Over a 10-year Period. Niger Med J. 2017 May-Jun; 58(3): 101–106. PMID: 29962651
  5. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Thyroid Diseases
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