Hypothyroidism in Children

Hypothyroidism in children is a highly treatable endocrine disorder. Your child can live a full life, with appropriate medication and expert care from specialists at Rush University Children’s Hospital.

Remarkable Care for Kids

  • Renowned leaders in pediatric endocrinology: The pediatric endocrinology program at Rush University Children’s Hospital specializes in treating and managing hormonal conditions like hypothyroidism in children. Clinician-researchers at Rush participate in research studies of how thyroid hormone works on individual organs.
  • Personalized medication adjustments: Thyroid hormone medication can help relieve your child’s symptoms and regulate their thyroid function. Pediatric endocrinologists at Rush regularly monitor your child’s hormone levels and adjust medications as your child grows and changes.
  • Care close to home: Pediatric endocrinologists from Rush University Children’s Hospital are available to see patients at our Rush campus in Chicago, Rush Oak Park Hospital and Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora.

What is hypothyroidism in children?

If your child has hypothyroidism, their thyroid — a small butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck — is underactive.  That means the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone,  which can impact your child’s growth and energy levels — or cause other body functions to slow down.

Types of hypothyroidism in children

There are multiple types of hypothyroidism. Regardless of the type of hypothyroidism your child has, treatment is typically easy to handle and effective.

Congenital hypothyroidism

If your child is born without a thyroid or if their thyroid doesn’t function properly at birth, they have congenital hypothyroidism. If left untreated, this can lead to severe mental and physical disabilities.

Babies in the United States are routinely tested for congenital hypothyroidism when they are born. And they usually develop normally when treated within the first few weeks of life.

Autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism)

The most common type of acquired hypothyroid disorder in children is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This occurs when your child’s immune system attacks their thyroid gland and keeps it from producing thyroid hormone.

A simple blood test for your child — usually prompted after you’ve noticed symptoms — will determine if your child has hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism in children

  • Feeling tired
  • Low energy
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Feeling cold
  • Muscle aches
  • Dry skin
  • Hair breaking/loss

If your child is experiencing these symptoms, they may not have hypothyroidism. Other conditions can cause similar problems. Your child’s pediatrician and/or a pediatric endocrinologist can help you get to the root of your child’s symptoms.

Care for hypothyroidism in children at Rush

Diagnosis

  • For newborns: Your baby will be tested for hypothyroidism when they are born. If this test finds that your baby has congenital hypothyroidism, your baby’s care team will discuss the next steps, your baby’s treatment, and any follow-up care.
  • For children: Talk to your child’s pediatrician if your child is experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism. Your pediatrician will examine your child, as well as order a blood test that evaluates their thyroid hormone levels.

If your child’s thyroid hormone levels are abnormal, they will likely be diagnosed with hypothyroidism and referred to a pediatric endocrinologist for care.

Treatment

Medications: Oral thyroid hormone medication is the standard treatment for hypothyroidism in children. Your child will take the medication once a day. Older children can take the medication in pill-form, while babies and younger children who cannot swallow pills yet can take the medication crushed up in food, breast milk or formula. The medication should relieve your child’s symptoms. Your child will need to remain on the medication so symptoms don’t return.

Monitoring: Your child’s care team will test your child’s thyroid hormone levels regularly, and they will adjust your child’s medication dosage as your child grows and the levels fluctuate.