Delayed growth, increased thyroid volume, increased weight, and difficulty concentrating at school are warning symptoms that may indicate thyroid disease in children. These dysfunctions “may arise due to a change in their function — hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, or through a change in their structure — goiter, nodule(s) or cancer,” according to Maria João Oliveira, endocrinologist and spokesperson for the Associação das Thyroid Disease (ADTI) According to an ADTI statement, “symptoms may go unnoticed” in children.
The appearance of goiter comes from a malfunction of the gland and an increase in the volume of the thyroid. For the specialist, there is the possibility “of thyroid nodules, which despite being less prevalent in children than in adults, the possibility of a nodule of this type in children being malignant is considerably greater”. Hence, it is important to recognize the main symptoms, diagnosis and treatments.
The difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism is that in the first, metabolism slows down, due to insufficient production of hormones, and in the second, the opposite happens. However, hypothyroidism is still the most frequent, both in adults and children, as it can be diagnosed at birth through the heel prick test.
The most frequent cause of hypothyroidism is autoimmune thyroid disease – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or chronic autoimmune disease. Other causes are related to radiotherapy of the head and neck, surgery or a congenital malformation and also with iodine deficiency.
In relation to childhood hyperthyroidism, it is 10-20 times less frequent than hypothyroidism and usually occurs in adolescence, especially in children with a family history. It also arises from an autoimmune disease – Graves’ disease. The signs are evident: mood swings, irritability, agitation, tremor, sweating, heat intolerance, palpitations, diarrhea.
However, for hyperthyroidism there is a drug that reduces hormone synthesis, but it is much more complicated than hypothyroidism, requiring closer clinical surveillance with periodic examinations.
Despite these dysfunctions “children who suffer from this thyroid disease can have a completely normal life, provided they are accompanied by a specialist doctor and take the prescribed medication regularly”, warns the endocrinologist.