Tests to prevent thyroid trouble

Early detection of thyroid disorders in newborn babies and pregnant women is crucial for better treatment. Congenital hypothyroidism is a metabolic disorder and a major cause of preventable mental retardation in newborns.  Babies born with an underactive thyroid gland suffer from congenital (present at birth) hypothyroidism. In the absence of timely treatment, infants grow with neurological and developmental disorders.  The thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), produced by the pituitary gland, controls the production of thyroid hormones. Low levels of T4 and high levels of TSH confirm diagnosis of congenital hypothyroidism. 

Check for the following symptoms in your child:

* Yellowing of the skin and cornea
* Poor muscle tone
* Swelling around the eyes
* Large, swollen tongue
*Pale and dry skin
*Large soft spot on the skull that closes late
* Large belly with a protruding navel
If untreated and undetected for a long period of time, the child can suffer from:
* Coarse, swollen facial features
* Breathing problems
* Delayed milestones (sitting, crawling, walking, talking)
* Wide, short hands
* Poor weight gain and growth
* Goitre (enlarged thyroid gland, causing a lump in the neck)
* Anaemia
* Slow heart rate
* Fluid build-up under the skin
* Loss of hearing

Congenital hypothyroidism is treated by hormone replacement therapy (HRT). If begun immediately post diagnosis, the treatment can prevent many or all of the effects of CH. Medication is the most commonly used treatment option. Synthetic form of thyroxine, in liquid or tablet form, is commonly prescribed. All expectant mothers should undergo thyroid testing as soon as pregnancy  is confirmed as a deficiency during pregnancy can affect the mother and the developing foetus.

Timely diagnosis and accurate treatment can help optimum management of congenital hypothyroidism. The challenge ahead is to increase awareness on effective diagnosis.

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