Recognizing the Causes and Treatment of Congenital Hypothyroidism

Since the issuance of Minister of Health Regulation (Permenkes) number 78 of 2014, the government has launched a screening program for congenital hypothyroidism. However, the program is still not running evenly. In fact, the resulting impact of congenital hypothyroid disease cannot be underestimated.

Referring to the same Permenkes, congenital hypothyroidism is a disorder when the baby’s thyroid gland is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone actually has several functions, such as supporting brain development, regulating body temperature, and controlling the rate of digestion.

Thyroid hormone deficiency can be bad for the body. Do you know how big of a problem this congenital hypothyroidism can cause? Let’s look at the following facts!

1. The cases are more common in Asia

Recognizing the Causes and Treatment of Congenital Hypothyroidismbaby illustration (unsplash.com/🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič)

Based on reports in journals Sari Pediatric In 2019, from 2000 to 2013 the incidence of congenital hypothyroidism in Indonesia reached 1 per 2,736 births. This figure is higher than the average case of congenital hypothyroidism in the world, which is 1 per 3,000 births.

Interestingly, gender and race also influence the development of congenital hypothyroidism. Reports in journals Medicine published in China in 2020 proves that female babies of Asian origin are at higher risk of congenital hypothyroidism.

2. The exact cause is not known

Recognizing the Causes and Treatment of Congenital Hypothyroidismnewborn illustration (unsplash.com/Charles Eugene)

Some people with congenital hypothyroidism have no specific cause. Some think that this disease is a gene disorder. Referring to the article StatPearls In 2019, babies with congenital hypothyroidism did experience a change in the gene sequence, which made their thyroid glands not fully formed.

Mentioned that iodine deficiency during pregnancy can also explain the occurrence of hypothyroid conditions in infants. This condition is often experienced by pregnant women who consume less foods high in iodine or take iodine-lowering drugs (such as methimazole or propylthiouracil).

Also read: 7 Benefits of Normal Delivery for Mothers and Babies, Extraordinary!

3. In the early stages, it may not cause symptoms

Recognizing the Causes and Treatment of Congenital Hypothyroidismillustration of a sleeping child (pixabay.com/ddimitrova)

The fetus in the womb will receive the mother’s thyroid hormone through the placenta. When they are born, the mother’s thyroid hormone is still stored in the baby’s body for the next few weeks.

Thyroid reserves can still meet the needs of the baby for the next 2-4 weeks. It is only when the mother’s hormone reserves start to run out that the baby’s body begins to show symptoms of thyroid hormone deficiency.

Citing an article on the page of the Indonesian Pediatrician Association (IDAI) in 2015, only about 5 percent of babies with congenital hypothyroidism showed symptoms early in their birth. This often leads to a delay in diagnosis.

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4. Signs and symptoms are less specific

Recognizing the Causes and Treatment of Congenital Hypothyroidismillustration of a baby born weak and distended (pixabay.com/Tammydz)

Although it has begun to appear, the symptoms of congenital hypothyroidism are difficult to distinguish from other diseases. Initial symptoms include weakness, lazy to suckle, jaundice, difficulty defecating, and easy cold. Of course, these symptoms can also be found in several other diseases.

After 4-6 weeks, then the more typical signs appear, such as an enlarged tongue, a puffy face, a protruding belly button, dry skin, and a distended stomach. In more severe degrees, babies can have difficulty speaking to mental retardation.

5. Can cause various organ disorders

Recognizing the Causes and Treatment of Congenital Hypothyroidismillustration of a crying baby (pexels.com/Sarah Chai)

As previously explained, thyroid hormone plays a very important role in the development of a child’s brain. Children with thyroid hormone deficiency for a long time will experience decreased intelligence and mental retardation. This condition will hinder the productivity and independence of children in the future.

In addition, thyroid hormone also plays a role in the process of bone lengthening. Thyroid hormone deficiency will cause the baby to not grow optimally, and at worst, experience stunted stature.

6. Can be detected early with a blood test

Recognizing the Causes and Treatment of Congenital Hypothyroidismillustration of taking a blood sample from a baby’s leg (pixabay.com/distelAPPArath)

Fortunately, currently the Indonesian government has launched a congenital hypothyroid screening program. Some hospitals routinely screen newborns before they are discharged. IDAI recommends that early detection of congenital hypothyroidism should be performed at 48 to 72 hours after the baby is born.

The procedure for screening is quite simple. First, the baby will be taken a blood sample. Blood is usually taken from the soles of the baby’s feet. Next, the blood is dripped onto filter paper and measured in the laboratory. Test results are usually available before the baby is 7 days old.

7. Requires lifelong hormone supplements

Recognizing the Causes and Treatment of Congenital Hypothyroidismtablet medicine illustration (pixabay.com/HeungSoon)

Thyroid deficiency in infants can be temporary (transient) or permanent (permanent). Usually babies with permanent hypothyroidism should receive thyroid supplements for the rest of their life. This is to replace the function of the baby’s adenoids which can no longer produce thyroid hormone.

Referring to the Diagnosis and Management of Congenital Hypothyroidism published by IDAI in 2017, the drug commonly given is called levothyroxine. This medicine is best given before the baby is over 2 weeks old. The sooner the baby is treated, the more likely the baby’s brain to develop normally.

Congenital hypothyroidism can threaten a child’s growth and development. Therefore, let’s intensify congenital hypothyroid screening to ensure the life of our baby!

Also read: 5 common brain problems experienced by premature babies

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