Thyroid has an enormously important job to do, especially for teens. It manufactures the hormones that help control metabolism and growth. Thyroid hormones help to control the growth and the structure of bones, sexual development (puberty), and many other body functions. By helping your cells convert oxygen and sugar and other body fuels into the energy they need to work properly, these hormones are important in determining if your body will mature as it should.
Thyroid hormones also directly affect how most of your organs function. So if your thyroid isn’t operating properly, you can have problems in lots of other parts of your body.
Hypothyroidism in babies is usually detected by neonatal screening, and treatment is started right away. If left untreated, it can be associated with defects in growth and development as described earlier in the section on congenital hypothyroidism.
Children with hypothyroidism can have all the same symptoms as adults but the most striking change may be short stature despite a normal or increased weight. Once treated with thyroid hormone, “catch-up growth” is the rule. Puberty may be delayed or occasionally advanced.
There is no change in intelligence if hypothyroidism develops after two years of age.
For treatment of children and adolescents with hypo or hyperthyroidism, it is essential that the tablets be taken regularly. Supervision of treatment by parents, along with a pill minder box can a helpful way to monitor and train the child.
For those children with long standing hypothyroidism, returning to normal thyroid function may be associated with a significant change in behavior as their level of activity may increase. This can result in school difficulties. Teachers should be made aware of the child’s condition along with any ongoing medical recommendations. In the case of children with Graves’ Disease, the difficulties mainly occur before treatment is started. However, if the medication is not taken regularly, symptoms of hyperthyroidism will reappear.