The most beautiful part of life is creating new life. Having and raising children to become strong healthy adults brings pride and joy to parents across the world. Thankfully, the vast majority of parents raise strong, healthy children with little problem.
However, for some parents their offspring’s are blighted with health issues that require professional diagnostics and treatment. Globally, the public and the medical profession have become aware of pediatric endocrine problems, which includes diabetes and growth issues.
Type 1 diabetes affects around 1 in 400 children, and this statistic is on an upward curve. Type 2 diabetes is also on the increase in youngsters, this is largely attributed to the rise in child obesity.
Acknowledging that these issues can blight a person’s entire life, Samitivej Children’s Hospital created their Growth, Endocrine and Diabetes Center. This specialist center has been specifically developed for the early diagnosis and treatment of endocrine health issues in children.
What is the Endocrine System?
Throughout every moment of a person’s life the body is carrying out multiple function, functions that are controlled by various different systems within the body. One of the most important of these is the endocrine system which controls multiple, vital functions throughout the body.
The metabolic and reproductive development in children is controlled via the endocrine system, as is the mental and physical growth of a child. The endocrine system controls bodily development in these areas by releasing a balance of the required hormones. If the endocrine system is impaired in any way, and the release of hormones becomes unbalanced, health issues emerge.
Common Pediatric Endocrine Disorders
The eventual height a child will reach in adulthood is largely down to their genetic potential. However, should a child have a deficiency in their endocrine system their overall stature can be effected. Issues with height, weight and pubertal development are very often found to have their origins attributed to a defective endocrine system.
A common malfunction of the endocrine system is with the release of the thyroid hormone. An imbalance of this hormone will result in thyroid disorders. There are 2 thyroid disorders, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Should there be an over production of the thyroid hormone it will lead to hyperthyroidism. A child with this form of thyroid disorder is likely to experience rapid weight loss, excessive sweating and nervousness are also common symptoms, as is an above normal heart rate.
A shortfall in the thyroid production is referred to as hypothyroidism. An early and common symptom of hypothyroidism in children is when a child feels perpetually fatigued. A child may also suffer with constipation and dry areas of skin. Child depression, in many cases, is found to be the result hypothyroidism.
Turner syndrome, was first discovered in 1938 by Dr. Henry Turner, although it wasn’t until 1959 that its origins were found to lie with a dysfunction in the endocrine system. Turner syndrome only affects females and is often diagnosed late due to it beginning with very mild symptoms.
With Turner’s Syndrome learning difficulties are common, as is delayed puberty and a lack of menstrual cycles. If early diagnosis for Turners Syndrome is not undertaken a sufferer may grow up and experience infertility.
Puberty in children is initiated by hormonal changes in the body. If a child has a poorly functioning endocrine system normal puberty can be disrupted. Precocious puberty is the term used for the early onset of puberty. The onset of puberty in girls before the age of 8 and in boys before the age of 9 would be seen as suffering from precocious puberty.
Girls will start to grow pubic hair, develop breasts and may start menstruating. In boys, pubic hair growth, testicular and penis growth, and changes in the voice are all indicators of precocious puberty. The hormone imbalance that causes precocious puberty can be directly attributed to issues with the endocrine system.
Conversely, should there be inadequate levels of hormone change in the body the young person will experience delayed puberty. The trigger ages of not seeing signs of puberty as a result of an endocrine issue is 13 years of age in girls, and 14 years of age in boys.
A poorly functioning endocrine system can lead to hypercalcemia. This is when the calcium levels in the body are too high. Excessive calcium can cause problems with the digestive system, weaken bones and result in kidney stones. Hypercalcemia can also lead to the interference of normal heart and brain functioning.
Hypocalcemia, on the other hand, is having insufficient levels of calcium in the body. An early sign of this disorder is a child being reluctant to eat properly. A child may experience muscle twitches and jitteriness and may be prone to seizures. Retaining the correct levels of calcium in the body is directly controlled by through the endocrine system.
Diagnosis and Treatment
At Samitivej Hospital’s Growth, Endocrine and Diabetes Center the highly trained professionals carry out detailed diagnostics. Following a general health check, blood and urine samples will be taken to check hormone levels to initially determine whether there is an endocrine system issue. Imaging tests may also be undertaken to locate and pinpoint the existence of any nodules or the existence of a tumor.
Treatment for endocrine disorders and the altering of hormone levels is a very complicated science. Altering the level of one hormone can have negative effects on other hormones. Finding the correct balance of medication in each individual case can take time and requires close monitoring, with ongoing blood and urine tests being very likely.
In some cases, overactive glands, such as the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands, may require surgery to restore or improve their function. These forms of endocrine surgery would normally be carried out via minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure, or as a robotic-assisted procedure. In some cases, open surgical procedures may be necessary.
The Samitivej Children’s Hospital Growth, Endocrine and Diabetes Center diagnose and treat children with endocrine health issues from across the world. The specialist teams are world renown and the center is accredited by UNICEF and the WHO.
With the numbers of endocrine health issues in children on an upward curve, identifying the early symptoms is vital to ensure a child’s growth, through to adulthood, does not become irrevocably impaired. The Growth, Endocrine and Diabetes Center is dedicated to ensuring that children can grow to be strong healthy adults.