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Pediatric Endocrinology

An Underactive Thyroid Won’t Slow Her Down

An Underactive Thyroid Won’t Slow Her Down
“Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone, ” explains Cayce Jehaimi, M.D., pediatric endocrinologist.
Since she was 8 years old, Lauren Cole—now 13 years old—has participated in karate classes. From the beginning, she was focused and disciplined, and she progressed from beginner—white belt—to first degree black belt. She’s won numerous medals and has participated in multiple Junior Olympics competitions. Though it never slowed her down and she didn’t notice any symptoms, Lauren was diagnosed with hypothyroidism—underactive thyroid—about a year ago.

“Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone,” explains Cayce Jehaimi, M.D., pediatric endocrinologist. “Thyroid hormones are crucial for development—they control how the body uses energy and help children grow.”

Low thyroid levels can cause a number of symptoms, but many go undetected because they are mild, subtle and gradual.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue and/or exercise intolerance
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Constipation
  • Sparse hair
  • Dry skin
  • Cold intolerance
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fainting spells, especially in girls
  • Occasional joint pain

Dr. Jehaimi says hypothyroidism can occur when the thyroid gland does not develop or function normally before birth, or it can be caused by an autoimmune disorder that presents later in a child’s life. “Acquired hypothyroidism, like what Lauren has, is more common in girls than boys and occurs more often in adolescents than pre-adolescents,” he says. “All infants in the United States are screened at birth for congenital hypothyroidism, as part of routine newborn screening. But, to properly diagnose acquired hypothyroidism, we perform a physical exam, blood work/lab tests and use ultrasound.”

Once diagnosed, treatment involves supplying the body with the thyroid hormone that it is not sufficiently producing. Lauren takes a prescription pill—a synthetic hormone—every morning. “It’s easy,” she says. “I don’t feel any different now than I did before.”

Though she may not feel significantly different, Lauren’s body is working much more efficiently now that it has the appropriate levels of thyroid hormone.

“I see Lauren every three months,” Dr. Jehaimi says. “We have to continually check her levels because the body’s need for thyroid changes over the course of childhood and puberty. Most children will require hormone replacement therapy for the rest of their lives, but the synthetic thyroid is nearly identical to the hormone produced by the body, so the prognosis is very good.”

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Thyroid Disease Growing in Kids

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Cayce Jehaimi, M.D.
Pediatric Endocrinology
Golisano Children’s Hospital
of Southwest Florida
15901 Bass Road
Suite 102
Fort Myers, FL 33908
239-343-9890

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