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Hypothyroidism in Children

By Mark Domet, M.D.

Young girl giggling

Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which, in most cases, a person’s thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone to properly regulate the body. As a parent, you may find it comforting to know what the condition entails and how it is treated.

​What is the thyroid gland?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland adjacent to the Adam’s apple in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that regulate metabolism, heart and digestive function, muscle control, growth, brain development and bone health.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Symptoms vary. Talk to your pediatrician if you notice any of the following signs or symptoms in your child:

  • Mental slowness
  • Puffy face
  • Slowed growth rate
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Swollen hands or feet
  • Constipation
  • Sluggishness/sleepiness
  • Dry, itchy scalp
  • Fatigue
  • Menstruation abnormalities
  • Dry, coarse skin
  • Abnormal weight gain
  • Mood swings
  • Developmental delays
  • Hoarse voice or, in infants, a hoarse cry
  • Swelling in the center, front region of the neck

What causes hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is most often the result of an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland.

How do doctors test for hypothyroidism?

If your pediatrician suspects that your child has hypothyroidism, he or she will perform a physical exam and test the blood for thyroid-related hormones and sometimes anti-thyroid antibodies.

What is the treatment for hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is usually treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy. The medication is generally highly effective in treating this condition.