Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body lacks enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is located in the neck and produces thyroid hormones. These hormones are important for many of our body’s functions and the proper development and growth of cells in the body. The production of thyroid hormones is also affected by the functioning of certain parts of the brain (hypothalamus and pituitary).
Normal thyroid hormone levels are important for proper growth and development. For infants and young children, untreated hypothyroidism can lead to serious, sometimes permanent developmental problems. If hypothyroidism develops when a child is older, there is less chance of permanent damage to the child.
Because the thyroid hormone is so important to a child’s growth, many countries have routine newborn screening to detect congenital hypothyroidism early. In Singapore, when babies are born, blood is taken from the umbilical cord to screen for hypothyroidism.
The diagnosis of hypothyroidism is made through blood testing. Specialised scans and additional blood tests are usually needed to determine the cause of hypothyroidism.
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