Do you know your loved kids may suffer from hypothyroidism? Even your newborn baby may develop this problem. You may be astonished or frightened, but this is true. You probably know about the symptoms of hypothyroidism in adults. But the children present in a different way in thyroid deficiency. In this article, we will discuss the presentation of thyroid insufficiency in children. After reading this article, you will be able to assess the thyroid symptoms of your baby which will help to detect the problem in an early stage.
Hypothyroidism may affect your child at any age. Your toddlers, school going baby or teens may show the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Even the neonates may suffer from a deficiency of thyroid hormone from birth. The symptoms vary among different age groups. We will discuss the features according to age.
Hypothyroidism in the newborns and infants:
Your newborn baby may develop hypothyroidism due to different causes. As an example, structural or functional defect ( dysgenesis) in the thyroid gland, maternal iodine deficiency, maternal thyroid disorders, etc.
You may notice the problems within the first 2-3 weeks of your baby. But, in many cases, it is asymptomatic and may be difficult to diagnose without blood tests. The most common symptoms include:
- Decreased activity
Is your baby seems to be less active compared to his age? Is he even cry rarely? Infants usually sleep 15-18 hours a day. But he should show some activities for the rest of the time. And crying is like a medium of communication for babies. Don’t appreciate your child as a ‘good baby’ if he sleeps the whole day and doesn’t cry. Rather, take him to the doctor for evaluation.
- Prominent tongue
Hypothyroid children may develop a large tongue. It is called ‘macroglossia’. You may notice the large tongue protruding through the mouth. This is a very common feature of congenital hypothyroidism and you should seek medical attention.
- Large anterior fontanelle
If you palpate the scalp of your baby from before backward, you will find a soft, quadrangular area devoid of any underlying skull bone. This is called anterior fontanelle. This bone gap is normal and will fuse as the child grow up. But in hypothyroidism this area may be abnormally large. The normal size of anterior fontanelle is a maximum of 2.2 cm in its oblique diameter. If you see your baby has a much larger one, contact the doctor immediately.
- Poor feeding and weight gain
It may be difficult for you to feed a hypothyroid baby. He will not show interest in breastfeeding. As a result, he will not be able to gain weight as expected.
- Small stature and low growth
The thyroid hormones work synergistically with growth hormones and facilitate the growth of your baby. So, in hypothyroidism, the growth will definitely be hampered. So, you may notice slower growth and development.
Your neonate may develop yellow coloration of eyes, skin, and urine even without any pathological cause. This is called physiological jaundice, which goes away spontaneously. But, if it has hypothyroidism, jaundice may be severe and last longer.
Haven’t your baby passed stool in the last 5 to 7 days? Does he pass hard stool even during exclusive breastfeeding? If yes, your baby probably has constipation and hypothyroidism may be one of the causes.
- Hypotonia and weak reflexes.
Due to weak muscles and reduced muscle tone, a hypothyroid baby may appear limp or floppy in your lap. His limb movement will be slow and weak compared to other babies. And each neonate has some primitive reflexes. As an example, he will suck your finger if you place it in his mouth, grasp anything with hand, etc. In hypothyroid babies, these reflexes will be weaker. However, it may be difficult for you to identify this feature. But contact a doctor if you suspect anything.
- Cool and dry skin
Just like the features of adult hypothyroidism, your baby may present with dry skin, coarse facial features, etc.
- Some other features like goiter, puffy face, myxedema, etc. may be found in children also.
These are the symptoms of hypothyroidism in infants. But keep in mind that, many of the children may not show any symptoms in the early stage. Or you may fail to notice those symptoms in mild cases. Hypothyroidism is the most common congenital endocrine disease. But it may remain undiagnosed without screening blood tests. So, talk to your doctor and conduct screening tests if required before it is too late.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism in preschool and school-age:
Thyroid hormone plays a crucial role in growth and development. Your lovely toddler or young child may suffer from a lot of complications if affected by hypothyroidism. Because this is growing age. They may acquire the disease at this age or it may be the continuation of their congenital hypothyroidism. Let us discuss the important symptoms of hypothyroidism in preschool and school-going children.
- Shows fatigue and tiredness
- Delayed mental development
- Short stature compared to age group
- Hands and legs may be shorter compared to the trunk.
- School performance getting worse despite all efforts
- Delay in developing permanent teeth
- Brittle hair and dry, itchy skin
- Puffy face
- Delayed development of pubertal features
Symptoms of hypothyroidism in adolescents:
Your teens or adolescents will present like adults if they suffer from hypothyroidism. However, those may be difficult to be identified in the early stage. And the way they start showing changes, are different from adults. For example:
- Depressed mood and difficulty concentrating.
- A tendency to avoid active lifestyle like teens
- Delayed or slow breast development in girls
- Delayed menarche and irregular menstruation
- Weight gain
- Shorter in height
- Worsening of school performance.
That’s all about the symptoms of hypothyroidism in children. Untreated hypothyroidism in growing age may cause irreversible damage to your baby, both physically and mentally. Who wants to be the parents of a mentally retarded baby?
So, if you suspect thyroid problems in your kid, take him to the doctor immediately. There are various kinds of effective treatments available. Most of the children will be cured with drugs and thyroid supplements. A few cases may require surgery or other treatment modalities. Your doctor will decide the appropriate treatment required for your kid. Thanks for reading.
- Oxford Textbook of Endocrinology and Diabetes (2 ed.)
Edited by John A.H. Wass, Paul M. Stewart, Stephanie A. Amiel, and Melanie J. Davies
- Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, 13th Edition, 2017. Edited by Shlomo Melmed, Kenneth S. Polonsky, … Henry M. Kronenberg
Wassner AJ, Brown RS. Congenital hypothyroidism: recent advances. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity. 2015 Oct. 22(5):407-12. [Medline].
Dr. Shamim Reza is a licensed physician and freelance medical writer. After completing MBBS and postgraduate training in Internal Medicine, he is practicing Medicine from 2015. He is now working as a Medical Officer under the Ministry of Health, Bangladesh.
He believes that being a doctor doesn’t mean being confined to a clinic. He wants to share his knowledge and expertise with the entire world. For that reason, he has written a lot of medical articles for various websites. Being a doctor he loves to write on different medical conditions and treatments.