Dr. Ladenson shares if children should be screened for thyroid problems when their mother has a preexisting thyroid condition.
A woman with an overactive or underactive thyroid gland often wonders, "Is this genetic?" and "Should my children be examined for the possibility of having a thyroid problem themselves?" The answer is that autoimmune thyroid diseases, Graves' disease causing the gland to be overactive, and Hashimoto’s disease, provoking an underactive thyroid gland, that these conditions do have a strong genetic component.
In general, for a woman affected by autoimmune thyroid disease, there’s a one in seven (1:7) chance that her daughter will also contract either an overactive or underactive thyroid gland due to thyroid autoimmunity. In childhood, I don’t think it’s necessary for periodic blood tests to be done unless a child is suffering symptoms that raise concern about a thyroid condition.
I think it’s sufficient for a woman to let her children’s pediatrician know that she is affected by thyroid disease. So if problems like slow growth or school performance, overweight occur, the possibility of a thyroid condition can be ruled out in a child with blood tests, and then as a woman’s children go through adolescence into adulthood, when the incidents of these thyroid conditions becomes more common, I think it is a good idea for the daughters and also the sons of women with autoimmune thyroid disease to let their own physician know they may be predisposed to these conditions. They should understand the symptoms of thyroid overactivity and underactivity, and some would say, it should be routinely screened every five years with the TSH blood test to be sure their thyroid is still functioning normally and not affected by the condition that afflicted their mother.
About Dr. Ladenson:
Dr. Ladenson is Director of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, where he is the John Eager Howard Professor of Endocrinology and Professor of Medicine, Pathology, Oncology, and International Health. Dr. Ladenson was raised in Missouri and educated at Dartmouth College, Oxford University, and Harvard Medical School before training in Internal Medicine and in endocrinology and metabolism at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He is also the past-president for the American Thyroid Association. Dr. Ladenson’s research interests include the effects of thyroid hormone on the cardiovascular system, applications of thyroid hormone analogs, novel approaches to thyroid cancer diagnosis and management, and health economic analyses related to thyroid patient care.
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