The thyroid is a bow-shaped gland situated in the neck at the top of the breastbone. The thyroid produces hormones that are distributed through the bloodstream to all of the cells in the body. These hormones, known as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), control how quickly the body uses energy.
Types of Thyroid Disease
There are two common thyroid disorders. Hyperthyroidism is when your child's thyroid is too active and produces too much T3 and T4 hormone. A thyroid that works too slowly, or hypothyroidism, does not produce enough hormones for the cells to grow and function properly.
Because thyroid disease is genetic, your children do have an increased risk of developing one of these disorders if they have a parent or grandparent with the disease. There are also some medications that can block the thyroid from producing T4 and T3 hormones, leading to hypothyroidism.
Congenital hypothyroidism is a condition developed in the foetus when the thyroid does not develop correctly. According to Mary Shomon, patient advocate and author of "Living Well With Hypothyroidism", congenital hypothyroidism accounts for about 90 per cent of all infant hypothyroidism cases. The Chronic Illness Alliance of Australia indicates that only 10 boys out of 10,000 and 60 girls out of 10,000 are diagnosed with this disorder---meaning it occurs less often in boys.
Hyperthyroidism could interfere with your son's ability to concentrate. If he's already diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, which, explains the health care information portal GenneX Healthcare Technologies, manifests itself exactly the same way in boys as an overactive thyroid would, you may not recognise the symptoms. Other signs include perspiring more than normal, trouble sleeping, tremors, an increased appetite, weight loss or if they continue to eat the same amount of food but do not gain weight. Again, boys are typically more active than girls, which could lead to being sweatier. And boys also tend to eat more. If you notice that your son is more active than he had been in the past, less attentive and eats more, combined with weight loss or little or no weight gain, you should discuss the symptoms with your doctor.
Signs of hypothyroidism include feeling sluggish and drowsy, a slower heartbeat, and feeling cool even when the temperature is comfortable. His skin may be pale, dry and have a yellowish hue and he may be constipated. KidsHealth, the media division of Nemours hospital, explains that kids with hypothyroidism grow at a slower rate than other kids and may be delayed in entering puberty. Even though boys, on average, tend to be taller than girls, they normally hit their growth spurt and enter puberty later. So parents should look for a combination of symptoms, rather than becoming alarmed if your son is growing at a slower pace than his older sister grew at the same age. Even though weight gain can be a sign of hypothyroidism, KidsHealth states that obesity is rarely ever caused by hypothyroidism.