Hypothyroidism is a condition affecting the thyroid gland, the gland in the neck responsible for the regulation of growth and development by controlling the body’s metabolism. In hypothyroidism, your child’s thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, which affects normal growth and development. 

Hypothyroidism may be congenital, meaning that a child may be born with it, or it may be triggered as an autoimmune reaction, in which case your child’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism also occurs in children whose thyroid glands have been damaged or surgically removed. A family history of thyroid problems also puts a child at a greater risk for developing this disorder. ​

The symptoms of hypothyroidism may not be obvious at first, but appear as the child grows older. The age at which symptoms will become more obvious and the severity of symptoms will depend on the extent to which your child’s thyroid gland may be affected. Your child’s growth, development and intellectual ability will be affected.

Symptoms exhibited in infancy will be different from those exhibited in childhood. Signs and symptoms experienced by infants and children suffering from hypothyroidism include:

  • Poor appetite.

  • Choking while nursing

  • Slow or no weight gain

  • Slow rate of growth of height​

  • Constipation

  • Jaundice

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Enlarged belly​

  • Coarse and dry skin

  • Swollen appearance of tongue, hands, feet and genitals

  • Poor nail growth

  • Delayed teeth growth​

  • Dry and coarse hair

  • Thinning of eyebrows 

  • Fatigue

  • Slower reaction time

  • Hoarse voice

  • Droopy eye lids

  • Visibly enlarged thyroid gland in the neck

  • Slow pulse rate

  • Muscular cramps

  • Lethargy​

  • Disturbed sleep

  • Intolerance towards cold

Behaviour changes are also observed in older children, and the onset of puberty may be delayed in children. If your child has hypothyroidism, they may also appear younger than other children of comparable age and gender.​​​

If you notice that your child has any of the signs and symptoms described above, you must seek immediate medical consultation. Your child’s paediatrician working with the Children’s Hospital Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital will be able to identify any characteristic symptoms by observing his/her growth on a growth chart. That is why following up on visits to your child’s paediatrician after birth is recommended.

In addition, the Internal Medicine Service Line can also provide you with additional information and medical advice.​​

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​​

All new born babies go through a routine screening right after birth. Congenital hypothyroidism may be diagnosed in these initial tests conducted on a newborn baby. Diagnostic tests used to diagnose this disorder include:​

  • ​Blood tests to check the level of thyroid hormone T4 and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) – also known as a thyroid screening test

  • Lab tests to check for the presence of antibodies to check if hypothyroidism is caused as an autoimmune reaction

  • Ultrasound to take a look at the thyroid gland and observe changes in its size and appearance.​​​

​Treatment of hypothyroidism will aim to help you and your child manage the symptoms of this disorder. Usually synthetic thyroid hormone replacement pills will be given to your child to replace the lack of thyroid hormones over a prolonged time period. 

You can discuss the administration of this medication with your doctor or your child’s paediatrician.​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​​

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.