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. These same hormones also help with energy level and help the heart, liver, kidneys and skin work correctly. These important hormones are called thyroxin (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The thyroid gland is told to make T4 and T3 by another hormone which is made in the brain. This hormone is called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
When a person's TSH is too high, the brain is working hard to tell the thyroid to make more T4 and T3. Sometimes the thyroid gland doesn't make enough hormone no matter how hard the brain works. This happens when a person has hypothyroidism.
Acquired hypothyroidism is more common in teenage girls, but can be found in boys and girls of any age. When a child has this condition, his/her thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone for the brain and body to grow and develop.
Acquired hypothyroidism can be easily treated, but if left untreated a child might not develop normally. Children who have untreated hypothyroidism usually have trouble growing and achieving puberty. Young children can develop permanent mental retardation. 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 properly.
Sometimes, because the thyroid is working so hard and the body has made antibodies to attack the gland, the thyroid gland swells. This is called a goiter. In most cases, once on medication for a period of time, the goiter will go away.
Symptoms of acquired hypothyroidism include:
- Feeling tired
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Slow heart rate
- Slow growth
Acquired hypothyroidism is easily treated by taking a medication every day. This medication replaces the hormone that the thyroid gland is unable to make. It is very important to make sure your child takes his/her medicine every day at about the same time. Taking this medication as recommended and seeing your child's healthcare provider frequently will prevent growth problems known to be caused by hypothyroidism.
Sometimes the thyroid medication dose will need to be changed. Your child's healthcare provider will let you know when the change needs to be made. Never change the medicine dose on your own.
This medicine can be given with small amounts of food. To help your child take this medicine, you may crush it or break it in half.
When to Call the Doctor
There are several symptoms to watch for that can help the healthcare provider treat your child with the correct dose of medication.
The dose may be too high if your child has any of the following symptoms:
- Trouble sleeping
- Shaking (tremors)
- Loses weight
- Excessive hunger
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
The dose may be too low if your child has any of the following symptoms:
- Sleeping too much
- Cold, dry skin
- Gaining weight too quickly
- Low energy/activity level
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
Contact your child's healthcare provider if any of the above symptoms develop. Never change a medication dose on you own.
The healthcare provider will want to see your child frequently during the first year to check on his/her growth and development. Depending on the particular situation, your child's healthcare provider may want to see him/her as often as once a month. Blood draws during these visits will help your child's healthcare provider make sure the medication dose is correct.
It is important to make sure your child stays on the same brand of thyroid medication. There are very small differences between brands of thyroid medication that might affect your child's labs and the way he/she feels. Please notify your child's healthcare provider if your pharmacy changes brands of thyroid medication.
What to Expect
Once your child starts to take thyroid medication, he/she may have more energy and better concentration at school. When a child is on the correct dose of thyroid medicine, he/she should not have any symptoms of hypothyroidism.