Hyperthyroidism

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Specialized care for kids with diabetes, thyroid conditions and other endocrinology concerns. Contact us with your pediatrician’s referral.

Hyperthyroidism in children happens when the thyroid gland releases too many hormones into the bloodstream. As a result, chemical activity and metabolism speed up, and a child’s body uses energy more quickly than it should.

Hyperthyroidism is in many ways the opposite of hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism is far more common of the two, and both are serious conditions.

Sometimes the thyroid gland grows and forms a lump, or goiter if visible, under the skin.

If your child’s pediatrician suspects hyperthyroidism, they likely will refer you to a pediatric endocrinologist. These physicians specialize in treating the body’s hormones.

Your child is in good hands. Our board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists at Norton Children’s Endocrinology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, are some of the best in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Our specialist providers have deep experience diagnosing, treating and managing hyperthyroidism in children.

Hyperthyroidism can be managed with medication and other therapies. The Norton Children’s pediatric endocrinology team will work with you to make a unique care plan to treat your child’s hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism in Children

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Increased sweating
  • Bulging eyes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Weight loss

Causes of Hyperthyroidism in Children

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism in children is Graves’ disease. This happens when antibodies, which usually fight infection, start attacking the thyroid. The gland fights back, making more thyroid hormones and speeding up metabolism. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis and Type 1 diabetes. Having these conditions increases a child’s risk for Graves’ disease.

Other causes of hyperthyroidism in children include thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid) and thyroid nodules.

Thyroiditis causes the thyroid gland to make too many hormones. It can be caused by something as simple as an infection, injury to the gland or an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto thyroiditis, also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. Thyroiditis usually goes away on its own after a few months, and most children make a full recovery. However, sometimes the inflammation can damage the thyroid and cause underactive hormone production, known as hypothyroidism.

When thyroid nodules grow in the gland, they can produce large amounts of thyroid hormones. Overactive thyroid nodules usually are an inch or larger and can be felt in the neck. Most overactive thyroid nodules are benign (not cancerous) and can be surgically removed.

Diagnosing Hyperthyroidism in Children

If a pediatric endocrinologist suspects your child has hyperthyroidism, they will conduct a physical exam and blood tests to help determine a diagnosis.

T4 Test

This test measures the blood level of the hormone T4 (thyroxine). Total T4 measures the entire amount of thyroxine in the blood, including the amount attached to blood proteins that help carry the hormone through the bloodstream.

Free T4 measures only the thyroxine that’s not attached to proteins. This is the part of T4 in the blood that affects how the body’s cells work.

TSH Test

A thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test can help determine how well the thyroid is working. In cases of hyperthyroidism, the thyroid is making too many hormones, and the pituitary gland releases less TSH, lowering the level of TSH in the blood.

T3 Total Test

This test measures the other major thyroid hormone in the blood.

Thyroid Antibodies Test

If the thyroid gland is under attack by Hashimoto thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition, high levels of antibodies are a sign of the immune system’s attack on proteins in the thyroid gland. Usually, two types of thyroid antibodies are measured: thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb) and thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies.

Abnormal thyroid test results can have causes other than disease and require an endocrinologist’s expertise to interpret the results.

If a diagnosis is confirmed, treatment can vary depending on the condition and child’s age.

Pediatric Thyroid Care at Norton Children’s Endocrinology

  • Voted No. 23 pediatric diabetes and endocrinology program in the country by physicians in the U.S. News & World Report Best Children’s Hospitals rankings.
  • Once your family pediatrician makes a referral, our large team of board-certified endocrinologists and advanced practice providers can ensure you don’t have to wait long for an appointment.
  • Diagnostic testing is available at the Novak Center for Children’s Health and Norton Children’s Hospital, making imaging, lab work, nuclear medicine thyroid scans and other tests more convenient for you.
  • A multidisciplinary care team brings together specialists from other medical fields and offers comprehensive services, including genetic testing, imaging, thyroid fine-needle aspiration, biopsies, radioactive ablation and endocrine cancer surgery.
  • Medicaid and most major commercial insurance plans are accepted.
  • Keep up with your child’s lab results, communicate with your provider, schedule appointments and get alerted if an earlier appointment becomes available with Norton MyChart.

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