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Endocrine and Immune System Conditions

Thyroid Problems

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Symptoms of Thyroid Problems

The symptoms of thyroid problems depend on the type of problem, including whether it causes too much or too little thyroid hormone.

Children with too much thyroid hormone (overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism) may be more nervous, agitated or emotional than usual, and they may have trouble sleeping. They may lose weight even though they seem to be eating enough. They may sweat more than normal and have heart palpitations, high blood pressure and diarrhea. Overactive thyroid can make the thyroid enlarge (get bigger). An enlarged thyroid is called a goiter.

Children with too little thyroid hormone (underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism) tend to have the opposite symptoms. They may seem sluggish or have low energy. They may be depressed. They may start gaining weight even though they haven’t changed their eating or exercise. There may be no clear symptoms at first.

Thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer do not usually cause symptoms. Both conditions may cause a lump in the neck that you, your child or a healthcare provider can feel. Sometimes thyroid cancer makes the thyroid and lymph nodes in the neck enlarge. It may also cause voice changes because the thyroid is near the voice box (larynx) and nerves to the vocal cords.

Overactive parathyroid glands can cause high levels of calcium in the blood. Symptoms can include feeling tired, weak and not well overall; having kidney stones; having headaches and being constipated.

Thyroid Problems Diagnosis

If your child has symptoms of overactive or underactive thyroid or a lump in the neck, your child’s doctor will ask about your child’s health background. The doctor will also do an exam. This will include feeling your child’s thyroid to tell whether it is a normal size and shape and whether it has nodules.

Sometimes a child has no symptoms. The family may find out about the child’s thyroid problem because the doctor feels something that’s not normal during a regular check-up.

Next the doctor may suggest blood tests to check the levels of thyroid hormones.

Your child’s doctor may also want to have pictures taken of the inside of your child’s body, such as an ultrasound of your child’s neck. These are called imaging studies.

If your child has thyroid nodules or other signs that might be from cancer, the doctor may ask for a biopsy. The usual method is called fine-needle aspiration (FNA). This means inserting a syringe to suck some cells from a nodule so they can be checked under a microscope. The purpose of a biopsy is to tell whether the nodule is cancer (malignant) or not cancer (benign).

Should your child see a doctor?

Find out by selecting your child’s symptom or health condition in the list below:

Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)