The thyroid gland is butterfly shaped and located at the front of the neck. Though it is small, the thyroid has a big job. It’s responsible for helping your teen grow and develop. It does this by creating hormones that help control your child’s metabolism, how much they grow, and puberty. If your child has a thyroid disease, then one or more of these functions may be affected. Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology, Robert Gensure, MD answers questions about the most commonly seen thyroid conditions in children and adolescents.
What is/are the most common thyroid diseases?
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
If the thyroid gland is releasing too much of the thyroid hormone into your child’s bloodstream, this is known as hyperthyroidism.
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
If the thyroid gland is not releasing enough of the thyroid hormone, then this is called hypothyroidism.
What symptoms should I look for in my child and when should I see a doctor?
In both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland can become enlarged and can be felt or seen under the skin on your child’s neck. An enlarged thyroid gland that can be seen your child’s neck is called a “goiter.”
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include heightened anxiety, irritability, excessive sweating, sleep deprivation, irregular menstrual cycles for teenage girls, and weight loss. Common causes of hyperthyroidism include inflammation, nodules in the thyroid.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism, if any, include lack of energy, depression, dry skin, hair loss, feeling cold, muscle weakness, difficulty concentrating, constipation, facial puffiness, weight gain, delayed growth, delayed sexual development, and/or irregular menstrual cycles for teenage girls.
How are thyroid conditions diagnosed?
If your child is experiencing symptoms that might indicate thyroid disease, you should make an appointment with their doctor. A physical exam and blood tests to measure thyroid hormone levels will diagnose any underlying thyroid condition that your child may have.
How are thyroid conditions treated?
If your child has a thyroid condition, then you may need to make them an appointment with an endocrinologist. Endocrinologists, are doctors who specialize in conditions that affect hormones, like the thyroid gland. They can help determine what medications and lifestyle changes will be best to help your child manage their thyroid condition and symptoms.
Find out more about the endocrinology department at Tufts Children's Hospital by visiting Tufts Children'sHospital.org/endocrinology
or make them an appointment by calling 617-636-8100.