Congenital Hypothyroidism in Infants

What is congenital hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism refers to the condition of the underactive thyroid gland. Congenital hypothyroidism is when an infant is born without the ability to produce normal amounts of thyroid hormone. This condition occurs in around 1 in 3,000-4,000 children.

The thyroid hormone is crucial for the development and growth of the baby’s brain. That is why untreated congenital hypothyroidism can lead to growth failure and other intellectual disabilities. However, early diagnosis and the best possible treatment at best endocrinologist in chennai, can help the baby lead a normal, healthy life.

What causes congenital hypothyroidism?

The main reason for congenital hypothyroidism is the underdevelopment of the thyroid gland. This can be either because it is missing, is tiny, or is in the wrong part of the neck. Sometimes the gland is properly formed yet fails to produce the hormone in the right manner. Also, there are cases where the thyroid misses the signal from the pituitary gland that commands it to produce thyroid hormone.

In rare cases, medications that are taken during pregnancy, mainly the ones taken for treating an overactive thyroid, can lead to congenital hypothyroidism, which is temporary in most of the cases. Congenital hypothyroidism is generally not inherited through families. So if it affects one child, it does not mean the other children you may have in the future will suffer the same.

Signs and symptoms of congenital hypothyroidism:-

When hypothyroidism is severe, there may sign of:

  • Weak cry
  • Poor feeding
  • Constipation
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Prolonged jaundice (yellow skin) after birth

The doctor at best endocrinologist in chennai may find in these babies, a puffy face with poor muscle strength, a large tongue, bloated abdomen and larger-than-usual fontanelles (soft spots) on the head.

How is congenital hypothyroidism diagnosed?

A process called ‘newborn screening’ is used where the blood is collected from the baby’s heel. When the result is positive, i.e., a low level of thyroid hormone with a high level of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), the screening program notifies the doctor. Before the start of the treatment, the doctor will take a blood sample from a vein to confirm the diagnosis of congenital hypothyroidism. Sometimes, the doctor may even order a thyroid scan to see if the thyroid gland is missing or too small.

What is the treatment for congenital hypothyroidism?

Congenital Hypothyroidism is treated with medication called thyroxine as a single daily tablet taken orally in the early morning in empty stomach. Nothing should be taken along with the medicine for 30minutes except water. This medicine does not have side effects. Your periodic endocrinologist will monitor the response with a blood test for TSH every 6 to 12 weeks. Taking too much thyroid hormone will, of course, speed up metabolism and can cause rapid or irregular heart rate and loss of calcium from the bone. However, excess thyroid hormone levels are unlikely to occur when the treatment is carefully prescribed and monitored. Treatment of congenital hypothyroidism should begin as soon after birth as possible. In most cases, your child will need to take daily thyroid hormone tablet throughout life.

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