Before you can answer the question of what is congenital hypothyroidism you must understand what the two terms mean. For a disease to be considered congenital means that it occurs to some degree at birth. You have heard the term “I was born this way”, well congenital complications are those that are present when you enter the world.
Hypothyroidism occurs when you have a lack of thyroid hormone, or your thyroid cannot produce sufficient amounts of hormones for the conversion of T4 into T3. This under activity of the gland can be caused by an abnormality at birth, or from an iron deficiency, as well as a few other complications that can cause the gland to stop producing.
What is congenital hypothyroidism treated with?
There is one in every four thousand babies born that has this condition. The infants are tested early after birth to ascertain whether or not their thyroid is functioning. If it appears that their thyroid gland is not producing sufficient amounts of hormones the infants will be given an oral dose of hormone called thyroxin.
The treatment for this condition is very simple and very safe to give. It cost very little to give the babies a daily dose of thyroxin and the majority of all developed countries test and treat newborns for this condition.
What is congenital hypothyroidism capable of causing?
This condition is easily treatable, but left untreated it can cause the child to have growth failure and to develop permanent mental retardation. Children with this condition that are allowed to become mentally retarded because of it are said to have cretinism.
Cretinism is a very old term for this type of growth and mental retardation that causes swelling of the skin and a loss of hair. Most individuals suffering from this condition will be sterile when they are adults. The onset of sexually maturity will be delayed due to the growth retardation that happens as a result of this condition.
The individual may be affected so severely that they cannot stand or walk due to reduced muscle tone. Thought processes will be slower and a large number of people with this condition are non-verbal and rely on someone else completely for their care their entire life.
What is congenital hypothyroidism normal length of treatment?
When an infant is diagnosed with this condition they are immediately started on the hormone replacement until such a time as their normal thyroid gland begins to produce adequate amounts of hormones. The medicine is administered daily.
In two to three week intervals the doctors will test the thyroid production of the child so they can determine when to stop giving them the replacement medication. Once a child has recovered from the condition they are termed a “euthyroid”, which means one that has begun to function. They will need to be monitored periodically for the remainder of their life in case their thyroid stops producing enough hormones. The testing will continue throughout their life.