Graves' Disease Often Overlooked In Teens

Posted at 1:21 PM, Jun 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-09 00:16:45-04

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Plummeting grades, weight change, trouble focusing, it might be easy to blame your teen’s behavior on the changes in adolescence. Your family doctor might suspect family doctor might suspect attention deficit disorder. But Graves disease, a condition where the thyroid works overtime, can easily be overlooked in kids and teens.

Alissa Espinal loved performing on stage, until she hit middle school.

“I gained so much weight and I was so self-conscious about it,” Alissa told Ivanhoe.

Alissa’s parents also noticed their daughter had a hard time staying on task.

“Even simple things, like my mom would tell me to go get her juice and she’d tell me a specific flavor and I’d walk to the fridge and I’d forget,” Alissa told Ivanhoe.

While Alissa’s symptoms mimicked attention deficit disorder, the teen was actually struggling with a swing in thyroid hormones. At first her body didn’t produce enough, and then it began to churn out too much.

“It’s kind of a thyroid gland that’s gone rogue,” Andrew J. Bauer, MD, Director of the Thyroid Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told Ivanhoe.

Pediatric thyroid specialists diagnosed Alissa with Graves’ disease, meaning her thyroid gland was in overdrive.

Check a child’s thyroid by having them look up at the ceiling. An enlarged thyroid will be obvious just above the collarbone.

Patients can take medication to help block the hormone production. Other options include radioactive iodine or surgery.

“There should be no recurrence risk of Graves’ disease when you take the entire thyroid out,” N. Scott Adzick, MD, Surgeon-in-Chief at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia told Ivanhoe.

Alissa had surgery to remove her thyroid gland. She says the “fog” she once had has lifted.

“My high school GPA was actually a 1.7, that’s how bad I was doing in school,” Alissa told Ivanhoe.

Now she’s an “A” and “B” student in college, making her father very proud.

Doctors said elevated heart rate and skin that is moist to the touch are also symptoms of Graves’ disease. While most think of Graves ’ disease as an adult condition, one in 10,000 kids will be diagnosed or about 8,500 cases every year.

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