Hormonal chaos? Detect hyperthyroidism in children

If the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone in an uncontrolled manner, so there is an overfunction (hyperthyroidism): How does this stand out? Who is most affected? What is behind it and how is hyperthyroidism treated in children?

That’s what the pediatrician Dr. med. Nadine McGowan

We have already spoken of the underactive thyroid. The production of thyroid hormones is usually controlled by the pituitary gland. If there are enough thyroid hormones, less of the hormone that stimulates thyroid hormone production is released in the pituitary gland, if there is too little of it, accordingly more.

Does my child have hyperthyroidism? An ultrasound examination creates clarity Photo: Fotolia

This control loop, which normally works very well, can get mixed up. For example, due to the autoimmune disease Graves’ disease. This leads to the formation of antibodies against the receptor, which stimulates thyroid hormone production. Or by an adenoma (a tumor from thyroid tissue) that also produces hormones or an increased production of thyroid stimulating hormone in the pituitary gland itself triggers hyperthyroidism in children.

Hyperthyroidism in children: how many are affected?

The most common of the causes mentioned is Graves’ disease. This overactive thyroid occurs especially in girls between 12 and 14 years, very rarely before the age of ten. One or two out of 100,000 children are affected. Overall, Graves’ disease and Hyperthyroidism rare in children.

Sudden weight loss can be a symptom of hyperthyroidism in children Photo: Fotolia

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in children?

typical Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in children: The little ones are suddenly nervous, can concentrate much less well at school than before, lose weight even though they have an increased appetite and grow with a Times faster. A tremor often falls hands and when the pediatrician examines them, their heart beats too fast for their age, their blood pressure is too high and their cholesterol levels are particularly low.

In addition, certain thyroid antibodies, low values ​​for the thyroid stimulating hormone and increased thyroid hormones are detectable in Graves’ disease. Sometimes you can also find changes in the eyes – the eyeballs protrude further. These “frog eyes” are caused by inflammation in the area of ​​the eye sockets, which are triggered by the antibodies. Children with this so-called exocrine orbitopathy can complain of double vision and eye pain.

Overactive thyroid in children can be cured?

In the ultrasound examination, many of the causes of hyperthyroidism mentioned can also be found, so it is essential for diagnosis.

A child with a goiter – an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of goiter in Germany Photo: Corbis

If you have been diagnosed with an overactive thyroid, the child should be sent to a specialist in hormonal disorders for children (pediatric endocrinologist). The doctor then determines how the treatment is carried out: usually with tablets, less often surgically or through a certain type of radiation. With Graves’ disease in particular, the prognosis is good – after one year Two out of three sick children no longer need therapy.


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Christina Cherry
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