Hypothyroidism is diagnosed when the thyroid gland -- located in front of the neck -- does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This hormone impacts many body and mental functions, including heat tolerance, cholesterol, heart health, memory and weight. According to the Mayo Clinic website, the majority of hypothyroidism cases are diagnosed in older females, but it can also affect teenagers of both genders. Understanding the symptoms of hypothyroidism in adolescents can help affected teenagers get the treatment they need.
Who is at Risk
The Mayo Clinic reports that a teenager who has a parent or grandparent with hypothyroidism is at an increased risk to develop the disorder. In addition, having a close family member with an autoimmune disorder places the teen at a higher risk for developing hypothyroidism. Other risk factors that adolescents have include past radiation treatment to the upper chest or neck, delivering a baby within the past six months or having the thyroid surgically removed, such as for cancer treatment.
Teens with hypothyroidism often experience similar symptoms to those felt by adults with the disorder. These include increased fatigue, muscle weakness, an increase in cholesterol levels, depression, painful joints and reduced memory. In addition, symptoms specific to children and teenagers may appear. Examples of these symptoms include stunted physical growth and the delay of puberty onset, according to child development experts at the Kids Health website. Teens and adults may also become hypersensitive to cold and experience dry skin and hair loss. An adolescent should seek medical attention if he has symptoms of hypothyroidism. While all symptoms do not have to be present, feeling fatigued for more than a few weeks, in addition to having other symptoms, should prompt a physician visit, according to the Mayo Clinic website..
Ignoring the Problem
One risk of untreated hypothyroidism is a goiter growth in the neck. A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland that can interfere with breathing and swallowing. It can also alter the neck's appearance. Goiters are not usually painful. Untreated hypothyroidism can also cause an increase in LDL cholesterol, leading to heart disease. In addition, depression can develop as a result of hypothyroidism. If left untreated long enough, hypothyroidism can damage peripheral nerves, most often impacting legs and arms, causing tingling, pain or numbness. In extreme cases, hypothyroidism can lead to coma and death, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
The diagnosis for hypothyroidism is a simple blood test. The test measures TSH -- which is the chemical released by the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones -- levels. Low levels indicate possible hypothyroidism, and discovery of low levels is usually followed up with an actual thyroid hormone test to get a definite diagnosis. This test will also be performed periodically during treatment to be sure the medication levels are still effective. Treatment for hypothyroidism is usually in the form of synthetic thyroid hormone in pill form. It can take some time to determine the level of medication needed to correct the disorder, with several adjustments along the way. Possible side effects from the medication include fast heart rate, hair loss and feeling jittery.