Hypothyroidism is a pathological condition involving the thyroid gland, which is primarily caused due to underproduction of thyroid hormones (1). These thyroid hormones are extremely essential for smooth functioning of the body. The hormones produced and released by the thyroid gland not only regulate vital involuntary functions of the body, like the heart rate, but also burn calories from the food and provides energy to all the organs of the body(2).
Thus, if the thyroid gland is not able to produce and release the hormones, the whole body gradually starts to slow down; as the organs are deprived of the energy they require for functioning. Thyroid hormones also play a huge part in keeping the digestive system smooth and normal.
Depleted thyroid hormone levels also take a toll on the emotional health of an individual to an extent that they get depressed and are always anxious(3). This is seen especially in females who have just delivered a baby. This condition is called as postpartum depression. There are also certain medications and other factors like exposure to radiation that can result in Hypothyroidism(4). There is also a genetic link to the development of Hypothyroidism where an individual with a direct sibling or a relative with this condition is more vulnerable to develop hypothyroidism than the normal population(5).
Hypothyroidism is a condition that is seen more in females more than males(6). Hypothyroidism usually affects people above the age of 65, but there have been cases of younger population developing this condition, especially pregnant females and individuals with a family history of this disease. Once hypothyroidism is diagnosed, it is very vital to get it treated promptly so as to prevent any undue complications that may arise due to decreased hormone production by the thyroid gland.
The symptoms or the presenting features of Hypothyroidism in children can be categorized in 3 groups, namely newborns, toddlers and teenagers.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in Newborns
In Newborns and infants the symptoms of hypothyroidism may be observed within the first few weeks or months of life even though these symptoms are very minimal and are often ignored by the parents. The presenting features or symptoms of hypothyroidism in newborns or infants include, but are not limited to jaundice, frequent constipation, not being able to feed properly, skin becoming cold and clammy, loud and labored breathing, lethargy and an abnormally large tongue(7).
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in Toddlers
In cases where the cause of hypothyroidism is more acquired than genetic, then the symptoms of hypothyroidism may show up in early childhood, although the symptoms are significantly variable and depend on the age of the child, overall health status, and how severe the condition is. The symtoms of hypothyroidism in toddlers include decreased height, which is in the lower end of normal, delayed puberty, inadequate focus and concentration, impaired motor skills, brittle hair, puffy face, persistent lethargy, frequent bouts of constipation and extremely dry skin(8).
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in Teenagers
Hypothyroidism in the teenage years is seen more in females than males, as is the characteristic of this disease. The primary cause of this is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the healthy tissues of the thyroid gland thus damaging it and resulting in hypothyroidism. Additionally, a family history of autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto Thyroiditis or Grave’s Disease also puts females at risk for developing Hypothyroidism.
The symptoms of Hypothyroidism in teenagers are similar to those seen in full adults and include sudden weight gain, growth retardation, height which less than normal for age, looking younger than actual age, slow development of physical characteristics, delayed menarche, irregular periods, delay in attaining puberty, extremely brittle nails and hairs, excessively dry skin, persistent bouts of constipation, a hoarse voice, and pain in the joints and muscles of the body(9). Additionally, teenagers with hypothyroidism may also feel constantly tired without much activity, they may forget simple tasks, and most common symptom of symptoms of hypothyroidism in teenagers is that they tend to lose their temper very quickly, which may affect their performance academically.
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- How Can Pregnancy Lead to Hypothyroidism?
- Dangers of Hypothyroidism in Newborns and Infants