Why is thyroid testing so important in individuals with Down syndrome?
Thyroid hormone is necessary for general growth and health of the human body, not just in individuals with Down syndrome, but in all individuals. There are two ways in which the critical balance of thyroid hormone levels may shift in the body. Either our body starts making too much thyroid hormone (Hyperthyroidism) or too little thyroid hormone (Hypothyroidism). This increase or decrease of hormone levels can have a major impact on many functions in the body.
Scientific research has provided enough evidence to show that children with Down syndrome are more prone to lower levels of thyroid hormone in the body. However, please bear in mind that this referes to a link between Down syndrome and susceptibility to hypothyroidism. All children with Down syndrome are not necessarily born with it, but suggests the possiblity of increased risk of developing hypothyroidism at some point during the life of the child. It is thus suggested that regular monitoring of thyroid hormone levels be done at birth, and every 6 months thereafter till the child reaches the age of 4 years. After the age of 4 the child maybe monitored for thyroid fluctuations once every 6 – 12 months.
Whom to approach with thyroid-related concerns?
Thyroid measurement can be done through a simple bood test, and the results can be assessed by an experienced Pediatrician. However, it is ideal to see an Endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in treating hormone related disorders) once in 1-2 years to monitor thyroid function on a long term basis.
Once a diganosis of Hypothyroidism has been made, the condition can be very effectively managed by doctor prescribed administration of thyroid hormone tablets, that will restore thyroid hormone levels and help bring the body's health & growth back to normal.
To understand more about the need to monitor thyroid hormone levels in children with Down syndrome please refer to the attached presentation which outlines thyroid monitoring guidelines for families.
Special credits : Majority of the content above have been adapted from Endocrinologist Dr Jayashree Gopal’s presentation at IIDSC held in 2017, organised by DSFI, Thanks to consultant Pediatrician, Dr.Nina Piyush Vaidya (M.B D.Ped, PGDGC) who has offered expert guidance in consolidating this information. We would also extend our thanks to Pediatric Endocrinologist Dr.Leenatha Jakkidi for addresseing subsequent queries that have been amended to the existing resource above.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that this guide is for information purposes only. Please consult a qualified medical professional for condition management.