Hypothyroidism means that the thyroid is underactive. In children, the two most common types of hypothyroidism are congenital hypothyroidism (CHT) and Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Congenital Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition that results from an under-active thyroid that does not produce enough thyroid hormone. ‘Congenital’ means that this condition is present at birth.

Very early in an unborn baby's development the thyroid gland moves from the back of the tongue to its normal position in the neck. In some babies this doesn’t happen and the gland doesn’t develop at all. In others, the thyroid gland is higher in the neck than normal and doesn’t work as well. These are the most common types of congenital hypothyroidism. Normally the risk of having another child with this type of congenital hypothyroidism is very low.

Less often the thyroid gland appears normal and is in the right place but doesn’t produce sufficient thyroxine. This type of thyroid disorder can be inherited. If this is suspected you may be referred to a genetic counsellor who’ll be able to advise about risks in future pregnancies.

Although hypothyroidism is a common disorder in adults, it’s less common in children. One child in every 2-3,000 is born with hypothyroidism in the UK. It’s more common in girls.

Congenital hypothyroidism - symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Congenital hypothyroidism FAQs

Congenital hypothyroidism case study

Films featuring young people with congenital hypothyroidism

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Hypothyroidism is most commonly caused by autoimmune thyroid disease. The most common form is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It’s named after the Japanese doctor who first described the condition in 1912. It occurs when your child’s autoimmune system attacks their thyroid gland and can cause inflammation and swelling of the thyroid gland – also called a goitre. Goitres do not always appear or can go unnoticed.

As a result of autoimmune thyroid disease your child becomes hypothyroid, which means that their thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Young people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis very occasionally develop signs of an overactive thyroid gland (this is sometimes called Hashitoxicosis) because the swollen gland makes too much thyroid hormone. This period of ‘overactivity’ is usually brief and the main problem in the long term is likely to be a thyroid gland that is underactive.

There’s often a family history of thyroid disease or other autoimmune disorders in children who have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Autoimmune thyroid disorders, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, occur in approximately one in 3,500 children.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis - symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Hashimoto's thyroiditis FAQs

Hashimoto's thyroiditis case studies

Films featuring young people with hypothyroidism