Primary Hypothyroidism Diagnosis & Treatment Guide


What happens when the thyroid does not produce thyroid hormone as it should?

When the thyroid either partially or completely fails to produce thyroid hormone, this is called primary hypothyroidism. The most common cause for primary hypothyroidism is the failure of the thyroid gland to develop or it develops in an abnormal location in the body.

A baby who does not produce enough thyroid hormone and who is not treated will not grow, will be mentally retarded, and will not go through puberty at the normal time. Although many infants with primary hypothyroidism look normal during their first year, they will have some brain damage. When primary hypothyroidism is not diagnosed and treated early in a child’s life, it can cause infants to lose an estimated 3 to 5 IQ points per month during their first year.

How do I find out if my baby has primary hypothyroidism?

The most critical step in preventing the damage caused by primary hypothyroidism is to check a newborn’s blood within the first 72 hours of life and a second test at one to two weeks of age. Texas law [TAC §37.55(a)] states the physician or non-physician attending a newborn has the primary responsibility for collecting a blood specimen and submitting it to the Texas Department of State Health Services Laboratory on a properly completed filter paper collection form obtained from the department. Your newborn’s attending physician will let you know whether or not your baby has primary hypothyroidism.

If my baby has primary hypothyroidism, how is it treated?

Although primary hypothyroidism carries serious risks affecting growth and development, it is now easily diagnosed. Treatment of primary hypothyroidism is simple and works very well. Thyroid hormone, called thyroxine, is available for your baby to take in pill form. The tiny thyroxine pill is crushed, mixed with food, and given every day. The thyroxine will prevent the problems of primary hypothyroidism when given every day in the right amount.

As your baby grows, the amount of thyroxine given must be increased. To make these changes in the amount to be given, your baby must be examined frequently by a special doctor called a pediatric endocrinologist and also undergo regular developmental testing.

What is the thyroid gland?

The thyroid gland is a small but very important gland of our body’s endocrine system. This gland normally weighs less than one ounce and lies along the windpipe at the base of the neck.It has 2 butterfly-shaped halves called lobes that are joined by a narrow band of tissue. This gland produces a long-acting chemical known as thyroid hormone. This hormone circulates throughout our bodies in the blood and is responsible for the normal functioning of all of our body’s organs and is essential for normal brain development and growth. 


Last updated December 28, 2010