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Parents: Thyroid Health Critical In Children’s Development

January 31, 2010

Parents should take any indication of thyroid disease in children seriously, according to experts at Baylor College of Medicine.

“Thyroid disease is one of the most common endocrine disorders in childhood,” said Dr. Sheila Gunn, assistant professor of pediatrics in the section of endocrinology and metabolism at BCM and Texas Children’s Hospital.

When children are born, they are immediately given a thyroid screen, which is reviewed at their two-week checkup. If the doctor indicates an issue with the thyroid during the checkup, parents should act immediately by getting a blood test to confirm whether there is a thyroid problem, and begin hormone treatment to resolve the problem.

Brain development

“The thyroid hormone is extremely important in the development of the brain of small children,” said Gunn. “If there is severe thyroid deficiency during a child’s critical brain development time, the child can have significant developmental delays.”

Treatment for thyroid disease can begin as soon as two to three weeks of age.

Thyroid disease in older children is usually related to an autoimmune dysfunction. Children’s thyroid glands can either be too active or not active enough.

Symptoms

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid is too active, include difficulty sleeping, jitteriness, behavior issues, weight loss and trouble doing schoolwork. Symptoms of hypothyroidism, when the thyroid is not active enough, include poor growth, weight gain and decreased concentration.

Impact on growth

Treatment for thyroid issues in older children is just as important because it affects their growth. With treatment, children can reach their full growth potential, and they are also able to focus on their schoolwork more, Gunn said.

Treatment is usually medication that helps control the hormone levels.

Although thyroid disease is more common in females, it can occur in males as well. Parents with a strong family history of thyroid disease should be cautious of symptoms in their children.

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