Children with Overactive Thyroid - Symptoms, Treatments and Causes

Published: 20th October 2009
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Overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism in children is marked by overproduction and secretion of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4), manufactured in the thyroid gland.

The effects of hyperactive thyroid are somewhat different than they are for adults, but not as severe. Most all children with Graves disease, or hyperthyroidism, have swollen thyroid glands, or goiters, as well as Graves' ophthalmopathy, or bulging eyes.

Graves' ophthalmopathy (GO): Is a condition that impacts the eye muscles that rotate the eyeball. An immune response is triggered, causing activation of white blood cells (WBC), resulting in inflammation and periorbital edema. The swollen eye muscles force the eyeball to bulge out, causing difficulty in closing the eyelids completely. This results in irritation and dryness of the eyes and corneal abrasions, as well as vision difficulties.


Children with hyperthyroidism are treated with an antithyroid medication, radioactive iodine, or complete thyroid removal. In any event, patients are monitored for the rest of their lives. Antithyroid medication therapy is recommended in looking forward remission of Graves' disease, and discontinuation of thyroid medication.

Antithyroid drugs offer possibility of permanent remission.

Radioiodine is a permanent cure for hyperthyroidism, which causes hypothyroidism and the need for thyroid replacement.

Surgery, or removal of the thyroid may be the best option for fast method of resolving hyperactive thyroid and prevents the risks involved with exposure to radiation.

Hyperthyroidism in Infants:

This condition is rare, but life threatening for infants. Women who are currently undergoing treatment, or who have a history of hyperactive thyroid and have elevated titers of thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins (TSI), risk fetal death or premature birth due to the antibody's ability to cross the placenta. In children and adolescents, Graves' disease is the usual cause of hyperthyroidism.



Feeding problems

High blood pressure

Rapid heart rate

Exophthalmos (bulging eyes)


frontal bossing (prominent forehead)

Microcephaly (an abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain)

Failure to thrive - poor weight gain and physical growth failure over an extended period of time in infancy.



Infants with hyperactive thyroid usually recover within six months. Hyperthyroidism that continues can cause the cranial sutures to permanently fuse too early in development, impaired intellect, growth failure, short stature, and hyperactivity. Acquired Graves' disease is marked by goiter, thyrotoxicosis (thyroid storm), and infiltrative ophthalmopathy (resembles exophthalmos). Diagnosis is achieved through thyroid function tests.

Graves' disease, or hyperactive thyroid in infants is normally temporary due to the the infant's ability to cast off the antibodies after they are born, however, Graves' disease is the primary cause of hyperactive thyroid in infants and children.

Infants are given an antithyroid medication, such as propylthiouracil. Treatment is watched very closely and discontinued as soon as the disease has been resolved. Treatment for children and adolescents is very much the same as it is for adults.

If you have a child who is showing signs and symptoms of thyroid disease, consult your health care professional as soon as possible. A delay in treatment can lead to unwanted complications and cause needless suffering of a child who depends on you for their safety and well being.

Barb Hicks is an experience writer and licensed registered nurse who loves to share her knowledge. You can find her lessons about Thyroid Nodules Causes and Thyroid Storm Causes on Clivir - the Free learning Community Site.

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