Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by syndrome complex which is associated with either decreased production or reduced sensitivity to the thyroid hormone. Epidemiological estimates suggest that the disorder frequently affects middle-aged or older individuals and relatively infrequent among infants.
However, among infants, females are affected twice as often as males. Underdeveloped thyroid gland is more frequent compared to the other causes of hypothyroidism in infants.
There are three common causes of hypothyroidism among newborns,
- Absence or underdeveloped thyroid gland.
- Inadequate stimulation of the thyroid gland by the pituitary gland.
- Reduced sensitivity of the thyroid hormone or poorly formed thyroid hormone.
Signs And Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism In Infants
In most cases, hypothyroidism in infants is of borderline severity and hence don’t have any demonstrable symptoms or signs. However in infants with severe hypothyroidism demonstrate a wide range of signs and symptoms.
- Dull look on the face with puffiness of the face is the most common symptom. The dull look is often associated with excessive sleepiness and sluggishness.
- Thick tongue with a typical appearance as if the ‘tongue sticks out’.
- Dry and brittle hair which is often associated with low hairline.
- Yellowish discoloration of the skin with other associated symptoms of jaundice.
- Poor feeding, constipation and lax muscle tone are other associated signs.
Infants with hypothyroidism often present with symptoms including hoarse sounding voice, short arms and legs, wide hands with short fingers and open frontanelles.
In most cases infants with severe hypothyroidism may suffer from mild degree of mental retardation and poor muscular coordination. Further symptoms like myxedema around the lower extremities is also commonly observed.
Treatment Options For Hypothyroidism In Infants
A thorough evaluation is critical to ascertain the severity of hypothyroidism in infants. Blood tests can be performed to test thyroid functions which can be supported with thyroid scan and X- ray studies of long bones.
Early diagnosis of the condition is critical to ensure timely intervention and reversal of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Ascertaining the cause also is critical to determine the course of treatment.
While it is recommended to consult a qualified endocrinologist, there are certain home based treatment and alternative therapies that can be beneficial.
- Homeopathic drugs like Bufo, Bryonia and Calcarea Carb are considered beneficial in the treatment of hypothyroidism. Homeopathy is considered to be a safe alternative since it is associated with minimal side-effects. These medications are to be consumed repeatedly in low potencies to ensure higher degree of efficiency.
- Massaging the infant’s body with diluted aroma oils or plain coconut oil can help in strengthening the muscle tone and reduce flabbiness. Experts recommend massaging with simple and non-vigorous flexion of the joints.
- Infants with hypothyroidism are often poorly breastfed. While diluted cow’s milk is a good alternative, extraction of breast milk and ensuring spoon feeding is critical to improve the growth. Use of bottled milk should be avoided.
These alternative therapies should be practiced in parallel with medications or treatment as specified by the Endocrinologist. It is also critical to ensure a regular follow up to ensure that thyroid hormone levels are maintained within the normal range.
In cases detected early and regularly monitored, the prognosis is good and the child grows to normalcy.