Acquired Hypothyroidism

Acquired hypothyroidism, sometimes called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is a disorder that does not allow the thyroid gland to make enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is located in the neck and is shaped like a butterfly.

There are several hormones made by the thyroid gland that are important for growth and development and puberty.  These hormones help with energy level and help the heart, liver, kidney and skin.  Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) may be high, but the other thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) may be normal. 

Acquired hypothyroidism is more common in teenage girls, but can be found in boys and girls of any age. 

Acquired hypothyroidism is easily treated.  Children who have untreated hypothyroidism have trouble growing, starting puberty and may not develop normally.  Most children require life-long treatment. 

Acquired hypothyroidism usually develops when the body’s immune system makes special cells called antibodies that damage the thyroid gland and do not allow it to work right. 

Sometimes the signals from the brain may not be working because of trauma, surgery or medications. 

Sometimes the thyroid gland is working so hard that the body makes antibodies to attack the gland, and it swells.  This is called a goiter. Most of the time this will go away once a child has been on medication for a while.

  • Feeling tired
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Slow heart rate
  • Slow growth
  • Not starting puberty
  • Periods that aren't regular

Acquired hypothyroidism is easily treated by taking a medicine every day.  This medicine replaces the hormone that the thyroid gland cannot make.  It is important to make sure your child takes the medicine every day.  Taking this medicine daily will prevent growth problems caused by hypothyroidism. 

The thyroid medicine may need to be changed as your child grows.  Your child's provider will let you know when the medicine needs to be adjusted.  Never change the medicine dose on your own.  Your child will need to see the provider every three to six months.

Call your provider if you notice your child has any of the following:

  • Trouble with sleep (sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping)                     
  • Shaking                                    
  • Cold, dry skin
  • Issues with weight (either losing weight or gaining weight quickly)                           
  • Diarrhea or constipation                                   
  • Hungry all the time
  • Irritable                                   
  • Low energy / activity   
  • A girl having problems with her period
  • It is important to make sure your child stays on the same brand of thyroid medication (levothyroxine).  There are small differences among brands of thyroid medications that might change your child's lab results and how the child feels. 
  • Notify your healthcare provider if your pharmacy changes brands of thyroid medication. 
  • Your child may need blood work every six months and after every dose change. 
  • Your child may take the medicine on an empty stomach.  

Once your child starts medication, he or she may feel better, have more energy, and better concentration at school.


Last Updated 09/2013