Hypothyroidism in Children


Liset is a delightful 4.5 year old girl who we first met as part of one of community based nutrition programs. She stood out to us because we was even more extremely stunted than the rest of her peers and because she was very delayed. At 4 years, she was still not walking or talking.

We reasoned that this could not be simply malnutrition, so we got to work as we always do looking for an underlying cause. It didn’t take us long. After some simple blood work, we discovered that Liset was suffering from congenital hypothyroidism. This is a very common condition in which the thyroid gland fails to produce sufficient thyroid hormone. The result is devastating intellectual disability and growth delays.

In fact, congenital hypothyroidism is the most common cause of preventable intellectual disability in the world, affecting around 1 in every 4,000 births. In most developed countries, it is picked up right at birth through newborn screening. However, in countries like Guatemala which do not have newborn screening programs or primary care safety nets, children like Liset are usually devastated.

We are happy to report that after just a short while on medication, Liset’s thyroid bloodwork is now within the normal range. Furthermore, she has started walking and talking! Right now, she is enrolled in intensive speech and physical therapy to further improve her development.

* We have permission from Liset’s parents to share her photo and story.