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Hypothyroidism

more about Hypothyroidism


  • The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck, near the Adam's apple.  The thyroid has a right and left lobe, connected by a bridge of thyroid tissue.
  • Thyroid hormone is released by the thyroid gland into the bloodstream.  When an underactive thyroid gland releases too little thyroid hormone, the condition is called hypothyroidism.
  • Thyroid hormone generally regulates the speed of many chemical reactions in the body, and in hypothyroidism, the body processes are slowed.  This is what people refer to as a "slow metabolism" (not a medical term).

  • In infants:
    1. Post-maturity (that is, born a significant number of weeks after the expected due-date)
    2. Large birthweight; lethargy; feeding difficulties; large tongue
    3. Hoarse cry
    4. Distended abdomen;Hernia in the navel (umbilical hernia); edema; cold, blue hands and feet
  • In older children:
    1. Fatigue, weakness, decreased muscle tone, slow thinking
    2. At times, the physician can feel an enlarged thyroid gland or nodules in the thyroid.
    3. Dry skin, hair loss, slow heartbeat, anemia, edema
    4. Abnormal menstrual periods
    5. High cholesterol
    6. Sometimes, the thyroid gland is visibly enlarged in the front of the neck.
    7. Insufficient thyroid hormone interferes with growth and development.

  • Newborns (congenital hypothyroidism):
    1. There may be less hormone-producing thyroid tissue than normal, and insufficient hormone is produced.
    2. The chemical reactions needed to produce thyroid hormone may not work normally.
    3. The areas of the brain that stimulate the thyroid to make hormone may not work normally.  These areas are the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus.
  • Older children:

- In older children, a particular kind of inflammation in the thyroid gland is the usual cause of hypothyroidism.  This inflammation is called Hashimoto's thyroiditis.  Insufficient thyroid hormone is produced to meet the needs of the body.


  • Because hypothyroidism in the newborn period can seriously impair the baby's IQ, there are screening programs in the U.S. to measure the thyroid hormone level in the newborn's blood.  A few drops of blood are collected by heelstick and rapidly analyzed to find cases of congenital hypothyroidism.
  • Hashimoto's thyroiditis is diagnosed by (1) measurement of thyroid hormone level in the blood, and (2) finding antibodies against the thyroid gland, in the bloodstream.
  • In unusual situations, a biopsy of the child's thyroid gland may be necessary for an exact diagnosis.  Usually this is done by inserting a fine needle into the thyroid gland.

  • Congenital hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's thyroiditis are both more common in females.
  • Thyroid disease in the family

  • Replacement of the missing thyroid hormone by giving thyroid supplements on a long-term basis (usually by mouth)

  • Impaired intellect
  • An infant whose congenital hypothyroidism is not detected may develop a severely impaired intellect.
  • Delayed bone growth
  • Delayed eruption of teeth
  • Anemia that does not respond to iron treatment
  • Falling off the growth curve

  • Discuss any of the above symptoms with your physician.  It is urgent to diagnose this, especially in newborns.
  • Find out the results of the thyroid blood test in the newborn screening program.
  • Ask the physician to measure the thyroid hormone in the blood.

  • The thyroid gland might be enlarged in hypothyroidism, but it might also be enlarged in hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid).
  • Lethargic infants with feeding difficulties may have other diseases that resemble hypothyroidism, i.e., cold stress, Sepsis, mental retardation




more about Hypothyroidism


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