Q: My son (with Down syndrome) recently went to his 2-year-old check –up and we were told he needed to have this thyroid tested. He already had 2 normal thyroid tests as an infant. Does he really need to have more blood tests?
A: Yes, your child should be re-tested for a thyroid disorder. Thyroid disease is very common in children with Down syndrome, occurring in 9-35%, depending on the age of the child. Thyroid hormone is critical during the first 3 years of life for brain development and is necessary for normal linear growth throughout childhood. Adequate thyroid hormone levels are also important for the normal functioning of many organ systems in the body and low levels can lead to fatigue, constipation, dry skin, and cold intolerance, just to name a few. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to make the diagnosis of thyroid disease in children, as often there are few symptoms. Therefore, measuring blood levels is necessary. Individuals with Down syndrome can develop thyroid disease at any time during their lives, thus it is currently recommended that children with Down syndrome be screened annually for thyroid disorders.
Emily Walvoord, M.D.
Riley Hospital for Children
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
Indiana UniversitySchool of Medicine