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Hypothyroidism: A Growing Problem

Children can develop an underactive thyroid.

According to Bess Marshall, MD, Washington University specialist in pediatric endocrinology and metabolism, “The thyroid is a gland in the neck that manufactures thyroid hormone -- important in growth, brain development, and in maintaining a normal metabolism.

In addition to fatigue and weight gain, the symptoms of an underactive thyroid, called hypothyroidism, can include feeling cold all the time, constipation, dry skin, and depression.

For children who are still growing, hypothyroidism causes the child to stop growing, usually quite abruptly. In girls and women with hypothyroidism, menstrual periods can become heavier and more frequent.

Most of these symptoms (except growth arrest) are rather vague and can be caused by many things. A swelling of the thyroid gland, or goiter, is often a sign of a thyroid problem”.

It’s important to realize, adds Dr. Marshall, in the majority of cases, the tired teenager with some weight gain will not have an underactive thyroid. Adolescents need more sleep than preteens and prefer to stay up and arise later. With busy schedules, more homework, and earlier school start times, many teenagers don’t get adequate sleep.

They also may not get enough exercise, as they are less likely to have physical education class in high school and may drop out of sports. People who are not physically fit will tend to feel like they have little energy.

Depression can also cause symptoms of tiredness and weight gain, as can a number of other conditions.

If there is concern about a child’s weight gain and lethargy, ask your pediatrician if symptoms suggest hypothyroidism. To make an appointment with Dr. Marshall, please call 314-454-6051.

Patients are seen at:

Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital
Medical Office Building Three
1020 N. Mason Road
Suite 110
Creve Coeur, MO 63141

St. Louis Children’s Hospital
One Children’s Place
2nd Floor, Suite D
St. Louis, MO 63110
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Copyright 2015 Washington University School of Medicine
Copyright 2015 Washington University School of Medicine