Hyperthyroidism occurs more commonly in adolescents and more often in girls than boys. However, hyperthyroidism can occur in younger children of both genders.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in children may include:
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- Weight loss
- Excessive sweating or feeling warm when others are comfortable
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Moodiness or irritability
- Bulging or prominent eyes
- Hand tremors
- Trouble sleeping
- Frequent bowel movements
- Poor school performance
Hyperthyroidism in children may be caused by:
- Graves disease. Graves disease is an autoimmune thyroid condition and is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in children. With Graves disease, the body's immune system makes antibodies that overstimulate the thyroid gland and cause it to be overactive. With time, the thyroid gland grows larger. Graves disease can also cause the tissues behind the eyes to swell, causing the eyes to be prominent or bulge.
- Hashimoto thyroiditis. Hashimoto thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder in which the thyroid gland is usually enlarged. This usually causes hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), but it can sometimes cause the gland to release too much thyroid hormone or develop thyroid nodules. This is a less common cause of hyperthyroidism.
- Subacute thyroiditis. Subacute thyroiditis is caused by a viral infection. The infection may cause the thyroid to become painful and inflamed and release too much thyroid hormone. The thyroid usually returns to normal once the infection clears. Hyperthyroidism caused by subacute thyroiditis is rarely permanent.
Diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism
Your child's doctor at Riley at IU Health can use the following exams and tests to diagnose hyperthyroidism:
- Physical exam. Your child's doctor can feel the thyroid by physically examining the neck. An enlarged thyroid gland may indicate a thyroid problem.
- Blood test. Your child's doctor can perform a blood test to confirm a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. In hyperthyroidism, blood tests show high levels of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) and decreased levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).