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Children's Health

Hyperthyroidism in children



What causes hyperthyroidism in childern and what can be done to treat it?


The thyroid gland is a gland located in the front of your neck that produces thyroid hormone. This hormone has many many actions throughout the body, not all of which are fully understood by medical experts. The thyroid gland is regulated by another gland found in the brain called the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland turns the thyroid gland`s production of thyroid hormone on or off depending on a body`s needs at any given moment.

By far the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in children and adolescents is Graves Disease. This is an autoimmune disease where a person`s body makes antibodies that cause its own thyroid gland to be overactive. It is most common in females and is thought to run in families. Treatment for Graves Disease can be with medications that block the production and actions of thyroid hormone, surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland, or radioactive iodine therapy that destroys all or most of the thyroid gland. The choice of treatment is based on a child`s individual needs and medical history.

Other causes of hyperthyroidism involve abnormalities of the pituitary gland. Pituitary tumors (usually benign) can cause over-stimulation of thyroid hormone production. A person`s pituitary gland may be unable to "shut off" its messages that tell the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone. Pituitary problems would most likely be treated with medications, or in some cases, surgery. Pituitary causes are very uncommon relative to Graves Disease.

Finally tumors of the thyroid gland, both benign and malignant, can cause hyperthyroidism. Again, these tend to be significantly less common than Graves Disease. Treatment of benign tumors is usually with medications or surgery and treatment of malignant tumors is usually surgical.

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Response by:

Carolyn E Sherman, MD
Chief Internal Medicine Resident
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati