Warning signs of thyroid problem in your baby
- Parents must watch out for thyroid-related symptoms in their newborns and must get it treated at the earliest to avoid problems like low IQ and other developmental difficulties
Although thyroid disorders are much more common among women, especially during and post menopause, they are not gender specific and do not spare people of any age group, including infants.
In congenital hypothyroidism (CHT), thyroid gland is underdeveloped or absent or the thyroid gland is unable to produce thyroid hormone due to a 'production line' malfunction and is insufficient to meet the body's needs.
What causes thyroid problems in newborns
Thyroid gland development in a fetus begins early in pregnancy. The gland may not develop properly or migrate to its typical place in some newborns, referred to as dysgenesis and ectopic thyroid gland respectively.
“In Dyshormonogenesis, the thyroid gland develops and moves into the proper place, but the thyroid hormone 'production line' is disrupted, and thyroid hormone production is problematic; it can happen upon inheriting a defective gene from either of the parent," says Dr. Yogesh Kumar Gupta, Head of Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism in babies
Parents must watch out for thyroid-related symptoms in their newborns and must get it treated at the earliest to avoid problems like low IQ and other developmental difficulties. Some newborns with low thyroid hormone levels early in life are likely to experience minor long-term alterations.
Dr Gupta says that babies with hypothyroidism are more sleepy than regular infants and may suffer from prolonged jaundice after birth. Children with congenital hypothyroidism may appear to be normal and are asymptomatic when they are born and hence it's important to get the prenatal screening done.
Here are some warning signs that your baby may have thyroid issues:
* Some babies with hypothyroidism are sleepy and difficult to feed, despite the fact that many babies exhibit identical symptoms without being hypothyroid.
* Some hypothyroid neonates exhibit prolonged jaundice after birth
* Babies with thyroid issues may suffer from constipation and excess weight gain.
* They may have low muscle tone, cold extremities, and poor neurological development.
When appropriate therapy is initiated as the earliest, children with CHT develop normally and in a manner that is similar to, if not identical to, their unaffected siblings.
How to diagnose hyphothyroidism in babies
"All babies should have a heel prick blood test between three to five days of life to screen for a variety of metabolic and congenital diseases," says Dr Gupta.
TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) is a transmitter that tells the thyroid gland to increase Thyroxin production and its elevated levels are used to diagnose CHT.
"However we should know that TSH levels can be transiently elevated in first one week of life in some newborns termed as Transient Congenital hypothyroidism. Pediatricians should make sure to repeat Thyroid profile in this subset of babies on Day 14 of life and if it is still significantly elevated with a diagnosis of congenital hypothyroidism treatment should be initiated," says the expert.
Can it be treated?
A paediatrician or paediatric endocrinologist should be consulted if the results are positive. Treatment with levothyroxine (T4) should begin as soon as possible; with doses determined carefully based on criteria such as the baby's weight, adjusted as the infant grows. Serum T4 and TSH levels are measured to check the effect of treatment.
During the first few months of life, these tests are performed every few weeks, and then every 2-6 months during infancy. In youngsters, the brain requires T4 to develop properly, and the body produces T3 from T4.
Can babies with thyroid issues have a regular life?
"Most children with CHT are tested at birth and treated as soon as diagnosed show normal growth and neurological development. Your child has a good chance of having a normal childhood and IQ leading a normal autonomous adult life," says Dr Gupta.
(With inputs from Dr. Yogesh Kumar Gupta, Head of Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road)