Bengaluru: Doctors say that screening newborn babies for congenital hyperthyroidism (CH) is critical. Dr Yogesh Kumar Gupta, consultant-pediatrics, Fortis Hospital here, said that it is very important to screen newborn babies for CH as failure to do so can lead to mental retardation in babies. The medical fraternity considers January as Thyroid Awareness Month.
The thyroid gland is located in the neck, which produces hormones essential for regulating metabolism and various other functions in the body. Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, doctors said.
With proper treatment, children with hypothyroidism can lead healthy, normal lives. The condition may have devastating effects if untreated, such as stunted physical growth and mental retardation, they said.
“We routinely do the screening at the time of discharge of a newborn baby to diagnose CH along with other metabolic problems. Once diagnosed and confirmed with an absent thyroid gland, we need to start hormone replacement therapy which is continued lifelong in certain cases,” said Dr Yogesh Kumar Gupta.
Dr Aditi Chopra, Consultant – Diabetes & Endocrinology, Fortis Hospital, said that hypothyroidism can cause a delay in physical and mental development and other health problems in children. Amongst the various causes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a common etiology of hypothyroidism in children. This is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland.
Common hypothyroidism symptoms in children are fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, constipation, dry skin and hair. Hypothyroidism in children is a common cause of slow growth, delayed mental development and difficulty in learning, she said.
Thyroxine hormone is very important in early brain development and overall physical growth. When babies are born with low Thyroxine (T3/T4), we call it Congenital Hypothyroidism, explained Dr Aditi Chopra.
Neonatal screening is available, cost-effective, highly sensitive and specific, and can detect the disease right from birth/infancy. Every newborn should be tested for thyroid disorders to avoid sequelae of untreated hypothyroidism in this vulnerable age. Supplements of the deficient hormone thyroxine, in the form of tablets, is a simple and inexpensive way of treatment, according to Dr Bipin Kumar Sethi, Clinical Director & HOD, Department of Endocrinology, CARE Hospitals, Hyderabad.
Dr Suruchi Goyal Agarwal, Consultant- Paediatrics and Paediatric Endocrinology, Manipal Hospital, Varthur said that 1:4000 babies are born with hypothyroidism.
Children with an underactive gland experience constipation, intolerance to cold, tiredness, dry skin, increased susceptibility to upper respiratory infections, weight gain. Teens may have heavy menstruation. There may also be a noticeable swelling in the front of the neck, he said.