Congenital Hypothyroidism in Children
thyroid gland doesn't make enough thyroid hormone, it's called hypothyroidism.
Congenital hypothyroidism is when the disorder is present in a baby at birth. If not
treated, it can lead to serious health problems.
is a gland. It’s located in the neck just below the voice box. The thyroid gland
makes thyroid hormones. These hormones help control metabolism. This is the rate at
which every part of the body functions. Thyroid hormones keep the metabolism at a
healthy pace. This helps the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs work well. A
normal metabolism also helps make sure of a healthy temperature, heart rate, energy
level, and growth rate. If a baby doesn't make enough thyroid hormones, it can cause
serious problems, such as mental disability, growth delays, or loss of hearing.
The condition needs to be treated as soon as possible to lower the chance of these
common cause of congenital hypothyroidism is failure of the thyroid gland to grow
before birth. Sometimes the gland is present but doesn't make the thyroid hormones.
Other times the thyroid gland is located in an abnormal place in the neck. This makes
it work less well. Or it can be caused by treatment of a thyroid problem while you
If your diet is low in iodine, your child will also have low
thyroid hormone levels at birth.
A child is at risk for congenital
hypothyroidism if they have any of these:
A chromosomal disorder, such as Down syndrome, Williams
syndrome, or Turner syndrome
An autoimmune disorder, such as type 1 diabetes or celiac
disease, or a disease involving several hormone deficiencies, such as
Certain genetic conditions that may be hereditary
Injury to the thyroid gland
Babies born prematurely whose thyroid and pituitary glands have
not yet sufficiently developed
A newborn baby may have no symptoms
at first. Often symptoms begin over the first few months and can include:
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Feeding problems
- Large fontanelle (the soft spot on top of a baby's head)
- Dry skin
- A hoarse-sounding cry
- Low appetite
- Bellybutton that sticks out too far
- Slow bone growth
- Weak muscles
- Lack of energy
- A puffy face
- A large tongue
Symptoms can vary with each
By law, all
newborns born in U.S. hospitals are screened in the first few days of life for
serious diseases. The testing is done with a few drops of blood taken from the baby’s
heel. One of the tests is for thyroid function. The test measures the amounts of
hormones from the thyroid. It also measures the amounts of hormones that tell the
thyroid to make more hormones. Your baby’s healthcare provider may also advise an
imaging test of the thyroid gland.
Babies born prematurely may need to have the
newborn screening tests repeated a few weeks after birth to determine if their thyroid
gland has continued to mature.
hypothyroidism is most often treated by giving a child synthetic thyroid hormones
every day. It's important to start treatment even if your child has no symptoms. A
delay in treatment can cause permanent learning problems and slow growth. Your child
will likely need to take these for several years, and possibly for life. The length
of time will depend on the results of testing and keeping track. In some cases, the
thyroid gland may start working again. This may happen by age 3. The thyroid gland
will be tested over time with blood tests. This can show if the thyroid starts
working on its own. Your child’s growth and development will also be tracked over
Congenital hypothyroidism can
affect a child's normal growth and development. This includes sexual development.
untreated, the condition can also lead to:
- Low red blood cell levels in the blood
- Low body temperature
- Heart failure
- Severe mental disabilities
hypothyroidism can affect a child's normal growth and development. It’s important
a child to continue treatment. This will help make sure a child reaches their normal
adult height. Some children don't need to continue treatment into adulthood. Work
with your child's healthcare providers to create an ongoing plan to manage your
When to Call a Healthcare Provider
child's healthcare provider if you’re concerned about your child's growth, or if your
child has any signs of congenital hypothyroidism.
Contact your provider if you
have any questions about your child's medicine. Always check with your healthcare
provider or pharmacist about medicine interactions before using any new prescriptions,
over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, or supplements.
- Congenital hypothyroidism is when the
thyroid gland doesn't make enough thyroid hormones. It’s the most common thyroid
disorder in children.
- Slow growth, lack of activity, and
poor performance in school can be signs that your child does not have enough thyroid
- The most common cause is failure of
the thyroid gland to grow during pregnancy, or it's located in an abnormal position
in the neck.
- Treatment may include taking thyroid
hormones to increase the level of hormones in the body.
- Congenital hypothyroidism can affect a
child's normal growth and development.
- It’s important for a child to continue
treatment as directed. This will help make sure that a child reaches their normal
Tips to help you get the most from
a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for the visit and what
you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down
questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the name of a
new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new
instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment
is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects
- Ask if your child’s condition can be
treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is
recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if your child does
not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If your child has a follow-up
appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s
provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have
questions or need advice.