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Hyperthyroidism in Teens

by Candice Coleman

Hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland, causing it to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism is significantly more common in women, so your teenage daughter is more likely to be affected than your son. When hyperthyroidism is left untreated, teenagers may face delayed growth. If you suspect that your teenager has hyperthyroidism, ask her doctor for an evaluation.

Symptoms

While some teenagers may not have any symptoms for months, others will have many, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Fatigue and weakness are among the notable symptoms, along with brittle hair, itchy skin, excess perspiration and a reddened complexion. Teenagers may also have trouble sleeping, menstrual problems, weight loss and diarrhea.

Graves' Disease

Graves' disease is the leading cause of hyperthyroidism in adolescents, according to the Boston Children's Hospital website. This autoimmune disorder not only causes the body to produce too much thyroid hormone -- Graves' disease also causes eye problems in about half of sufferers, leading to bulging eyes, double vision, pain and trouble moving the eyes, states the Mayo Clinic website. Teenagers may also suffer from goiters, which appear as lumps on the front of the neck. Doctors may prescribe medications to treat Graves' disease, as well as corticosteroids or surgery to treat eye problems.

Other Causes Of Hyperthyroidism

Most of the time, doctors do not fully understand what causes a thyroid problem, says Kids Health, a child development site. Non-cancerous growths in the thyroid gland, or thyroid nodules, may be to blame, advises the Boston Children's Hospital website. An inflammation of the thyroid, thyroiditis, may also cause the thyroid gland to produce extra thyroid hormone.

Treatment

Your teenager's doctor will typically run tests and scan his thyroid gland for any signs of trouble. If your son has hyperthyroidism, the doctor will likely prescribe medications designed to block some of the thyroid gland's hormones, says the Boston Children's Hospital site. The medication is designed to slow down the thyroid, causing it to produce normal hormone levels again. If symptoms do not improve after two years of taking medication, radiation or surgery may be necessary to destroy or remove part of the thyroid gland in order to restore normal function, according to Kids Health professionals.

Aftermath

If your daughter is taking medications to control her thyroid gland, she will need to have blood tests a few times a year to ensure that her medications are still working. Teenagers who have hyperthyroidism may or may not need to take medications for the rest of their lives to keep the thyroid gland stabilized. A doctor may take teenagers off of their medications and monitor them on a temporary basis. If thyroid hormones begin rising again, teenagers may need to stay on their medications.

About the Author

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.

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