Children and the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Expert Q&A

A tired young girl who fell asleep while reading a book.
Why might your child be sleeping so much more than normal?. Photo by Cyndi Monaghan/Getty Images

Question. 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. Her pediatrician said that she was exhibiting signs of mono.  Apparently her thyroid is also out of whack. How common is hypothyroidism in children her age? Natalie, Seattle, WA

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

Symptoms 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)?

Hypothyroidism in Children

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 hypothyroidism is not very common in children, it is also not rare.

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

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