Has your child become more restless, squirmy and nervous than usual? Has
she been eating a lot but still seems to be losing weight? If so, there
is a chance that they may have hyperthyroidism.
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located at the base of the neck
that is responsible for producing hormones that regulate our metabolism
and control how energy is used up by cells in the body. Hyperthyroidism
is what happens when the thyroid gland becomes too active and releases
too much of the thyroid hormone into the blood, causing our bodies to
metabolize and use up energy much faster than they should. “Hyperthyroidism
is a serious condition that, if left untreated, can lead to severe conditions
including congestive heart disease and osteoporosis,” warns
Maureen Villasenor, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group. “In children, it can also affect or stunt growth.”
Hyperthyroidism is hereditary. This means that a child with hyperthyroidism
would have likely inherited it from a family member. If mom, dad or any
of the grandparents have thyroid problems, then the child is at high risk
of inheriting it. “Although we do not know what causes hyperthyroidism
to develop, it can be easily controlled. With the right medication, children
who experience this condition can live a healthy, and normal life,”
Dr. Villasenor states.
A lack of iodine in the body can also cause problems with the thyroid.
Iodine is a mineral that is needed for the body to produce thyroid hormone
and is naturally found in seafood and milk. Iodine is also found in most
brands of table salt which are regularly used in the American diet. Because
of this, it is very uncommon to develop thyroid problems as a result of
a lack of iodine in the diet.
Sometimes, a child may show no symptoms, and the problem may only be detected
during a physical examination. But, typically, children with hyperthyroidism
tend to have a fast heartbeat and trouble sleeping. Their hands may tremble,
and they may sweat a lot even when it is cold outside, or when they are
not doing any physically exerting activities. They also have a big appetite,
but despite being hungry often, no matter how much they eat, they keep
“If you think your child may have problems with their thyroid, it
is important to see your doctor or pediatrician right away,” says
Dr. Villasenor. “Your doctor will conduct a physical exam, order
blood tests and may order an ultrasound of your child’s throat to
check for any nodules. If your child is found to have hyperthyroidism,
then your doctor will send you to a specialist in pediatric endocrinology
who can prescribe medications that they will need to take daily.”
Sometimes surgery is required to remove all or part of your child’s
thyroid gland in order to get the hormone levels under control. For older
children they may recommend radioactive iodine treatment. Regardless of
the method used, once your child’s thyroid levels are normalized
they will need regular check-ups with the specialist to ensure the hormones
Although hyperthyroidism can lead to more severe conditions, once properly
treated, your child can live a full and healthy life.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.