Neonatal Hypothyroidism

Another screening that is part of the Newborn Metabolic Screen is Hypothyroidism.

Neonatal hypothyroidism is a condition in which little or no thyroid hormone is produced. If baby is born with this condition is it known as congenital hypothyroidism, if it develops soon after birth it is known as hypothyroidism developed during the newborn period.

Hypothyroidism in the newborn is caused by a poorly developed thyroid gland, a pituitary gland that does not stimulate the thyroid, or thyroid hormones that do not work. The most common defect is an underdeveloped thyroid gland. Girls are affected twice as often as boys and 1 in 3000 births are affected.

Most newborns that are affected have little or no symptoms, but babies with severe hypothyroidism often have a unique appearance.

  • Thick tongue that sticks out.
  • Puffy face
  • Dull look

This appearance develops as the disease gets worse.

Other symptoms/assessments may include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Sluggishness
  • Poor feeding
  • Decreased muscle tone
  • Low hairline
  • Jaundice
  • Constipation
  • Dry hair
  • Short height, short arms and legs
  • Failure to grow
  • Choking episodes
  • Hoarse sounding cry
  • Very large soft spots

Blood tests will be done to check thyroid function as well as a thyroid scan and X-rays of the long bones.

Early diagnosis is important as most of the effects are easy to reverse. Thyroxine is given and blood tests are done to ensure adequate levels.

Newborns treated within the first month usually have normal intelligence and good outcomes.

Left untreated, mild hypothyroidism can lead to severe intellectual disabilities and growth problems. During the first few months after birth, the nervous system goes through important development, a lack of thyroid hormone can cause irreversible damage.

Routine testing is done on newborns to check for hypothyroidism, but you need to contact your pediatrician if you have been exposed to antithyroid drugs or procedures, or if your baby shows any signs or symptoms of hypothyroidism.

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