Every child deserves to grow to his or her full potential. The dynamic journey of growth begins in the womb and continues through infancy, childhood, teenage and adolescence. Along with external factors like nutrition and nurturing, the body’s hormones play an important role during these crucial early years of life. Therefore, it is only understandable that a hormonal imbalance at any stage of growth can significantly impact the physical and psychological development of a child. The specialised branch of medicine dealing with children with various hormonal disorders is called Paediatric Endocrinology.
Just like adults, children too can have certain hormonal deficiency or excess. These can be present since birth due to improper development or functioning of an endocrine gland (eg.; thyroid, adrenal or pituitary) or can begin later on in childhood. Some common paediatric endocrine conditions include:
It is often assumed that a short child has many years to grow and will catch up with age. In doing so a serious underlying condition such as growth hormone deficiency maybe missed. Similarly overweight and obese children are often thought to be ‘healthy’ and a change in lifestyle is neglected. This can lead to metabolic complications such as type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian disease and hypertension in adolescence and young adulthood. Although many hormonal disorders can be subtle and easily missed, a few red flags and possible hormonal disorders as shown below can alert parents to seek timely medical attention.
An infant with thyroid hormone deficiency, if untreated can have poor growth and irreversible neurological damage. On the other hand, an early diagnosis by a simple newborn screen and regular therapy with oral thyroxine allows normal growth and development.
Children with early puberty may not be mature enough to deal with the ongoing hormonal changes and may also rapidly lose height potential to end up being very short adults. In some such cases of precocity, the progress of puberty can be temporarily arrested with regular hormonal injections, allowing the child to grow and mature at a normal rate. Similarly, an untreated adult with growth hormone deficiency may remain as short as an eight year old child throughout life. Whereas, regular growth hormone therapy started at a young age can allow a child to reach his or her genetic height potential.
Paediatric endocrinology is a highly specialised and challenging field of medicine. A paediatric endocrinologist requires having sound knowledge of a child’s physiology as well as expertise in dealing with common and rare hormonal imbalances. Children with hormonal disorders require an individualised treatment plan, regular monitoring and constant support to allay parental anxiety. Dr. Akanksha Parikh is a qualified Paediatric and Adolescent Endocrinologist has dealt with over 200 children with juvenile diabetes as a part of the international CDiC (Changing Diabetes in Children) program. She is well-versed in the management of growth and hormonal disorders of neonates, children and adolescents and is available Monday to Saturday between 10 am to 7 pm.
Often, children with hormonal disorders require an inclusive approach, imparted by multiple paediatric specialists working together. Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital provides top quality medical care and can address the various needs of your child under one roof.