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Children and the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Expert Q&A

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Updated April 09, 2014

Q. My 7 1/2 yr old daughter has been sleeping 14-18 hours a day, she is always tired, irritable, moody, her hair & skin is dry, she's becoming pudgy, and has mysterious aches and pains often. To date, she's missed 3 weeks of school because she's so tired all the time.

She was exhibiting signs of mono according to our pediatrician. He did a monospot which came back negative, so then did an EBV test, which was positive for the antibodies. He was on the brink of referring her to a local children's hospital to visit their Chronic Fatigue Clinic for adolescents (although she's young), but opted to run Thyroid tests before doing so to "cover all the bases" he said. Apparently her thyroid is out of whack, so they did T3, Free T4, Anti thyroid antibody testing and TSH levels today.

My question is two fold. How common is hypothyroidism in children her age? Also I'd like to know if the fact that my thyroid went out of whack when I was 5 wks pregnant with her has any relation to this. I wonder if they two are related in any oddball genetic way or if it's even possible.

I'm not sure what's going to happen with her. Today is Tuesday. He said we'd have her labs back, no later than Thursday and said hopefully by Friday we'd have her on a medicine to help her feel better and to even out her levels. I take Levoxyl and assume she probably will also. Natalie, Seattle, WA

A. She is exhibiting many of the signs of hypothyroidism.

While mono might cause some of those symptoms, you would usually expect weight loss and for the symptoms to have begun with a febrile illness and sore throat if she had mono.

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • weight gain
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • muscle weakness
  • poor appetite
  • hoarse voice
  • slow speech
  • dry skin
  • cold intolerance
  • dry or brittle hair
  • hair loss
  • constipation
  • muscle cramps
  • delayed puberty
  • poor school performance (dropping grades, etc.)
  • delayed development of teeth
Does she have a goiter (an enlargement of the thyroid causing a lump in a child's neck)?

While most people think of congenital hypothyroidism when they think of children and thyroid problems, older kids can develop hypothyroidism too. When they are over 12 months old, it is usually called juvenile hypothyroidism, with Hashimoto's thyroiditis being the main cause. While I couldn't find any statistics on how common hypothyroidism is at this age, I don't think that it is rare.

Your thyroid problems may be linked to hers, but I wouldn't think that the fact that you began to have problems during pregnancy is related. There are some conditions that cause hypothyroidism, like Hasimoto's Thyroiditis, that may have a hereditary link.

To help further evaluate and manage her problem, a referral to a Pediatric Endocrinologist might be helpful.

The About Guide to thyroid disorders would also be a good resource for you.

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