Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormone. This overproduction of the hormone causes a child’s metabolism to be over-active, cause weight loss, irregular or rapid heartbeat, anxiety and even decreased school performance.
Main Type of Hyperthyroidism
There are several different types of hyperthyroidism, however the main type seen in children is Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease occurs when the immune system develops antibodies that latch on to the thyroid cells, making the thyroid over-produce the thyroid hormone. This disease is more common in girls than boys, and is most common in adolescents.
Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism can range from mild to severe. These symptoms can include:
- Increased Blood Pressure
- Enlarged Thyroid
- Increased Heart Rate
- Irritated or bulging eyes with visible redness or blood vessels
- Anxiety, irritability and nervousness
- Poor, restless sleep
- Increased appetite, accompanies with or without weight loss
- Heat tolerance (always warm)
- Poor or decreased school performance
- Difficulty concentrating
To diagnose hyperthyroidism, the doctor will ask for family medical history and complete a physical examination. A blood test may be taken to help determine thyroid hormone levels. A doctor may also use an ultrasound to create an image of the child’s thyroid. Additionally, a small amount of iodine may need to be swallowed to monitor how the thyroid absorbs the iodine.
The type of treatment used will depend on the cause of the hyperthyroidism. Treatment may include:
- Anti-thyroid medication
- Radioactive iodine ablation
- Surgical removal of half or all of the thyroid
For a majority of children, hyperthyroidism can be controlled after several months of treatment. Once hormone levels are shown to be improving or at normal levels, children will be able to resume their normal activities.