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Juvenile Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

Goiter in Grave's disease. Courtesy Wikimedia.

Goiter in Grave’s disease. Courtesy Wikimedia.

What Is Juvenile Autoimmune Thyroid Disease?

Juvenile autoimmune thyroid disease is an autoimmune disorder occurring in childhood that targets and damages the thyroid gland, often causing goiter. It is characterized by abnormal circulating thyroid hormone levels in the bloodstream.

Recent evidence suggests that thyroid autoimmunity originates from an interaction of genetic, endogenous and environmental factors which end up activating thyroid-specific autoreactive T-lymphocyte cells in susceptible children.1

Q: What is the thyroid gland?

Thyroxine molecule, chemical structure. Thyroid gland hormone that plays a role in energy metabolism regulation. It is a iodine containing derivative of thyrosine. Atoms are represented as spheres with conventional color coding: hydrogen (white), carbon (grey), oxygen (red), nitrogen (blue), iodine (purple).

Thyroxine molecule. Atoms are represented as spheres with conventional color coding: hydrogen (white), carbon (grey), oxygen (red), nitrogen (blue), iodine (purple).

A: The thyroid is an endocrine (hormone secreting) gland that produces thyroid hormones in response to the action of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) produced by the pituitary gland, and releases them into the bloodstream to be quickly carried to their site of action.

The three thyroid hormones are thyroxine, called T4, triiodothyronine, called T3, and calcitonin. T4 and T3 hormones control the rate of metabolism, meaning 1) the rate of food usage for energy production, 2) the rate of protein production and breakdown in most tissues, 3) the heart rate and force of heart muscle contraction, 4) body temperature, and 5) the rate of growth and development in children.

Dietary iodine and selenium are required for T3 production. Specifically, selenium is part of the enzyme that converts T4 to the active form, T3. Calcitonin hormone is needed to build and maintain dense bones and regulate calcium blood level. The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck at the top of the trachea (windpipe).

Who Is Affected in the General Population? Autoimmune thyroid disease is the most common etiology of acquired thyroid dysfunction in pediatrics. It is more common in females and usually occurs in early to mid-puberty. Presentation is rare under the age of 3 years, but cases have been described even in infancy.2 

What Is Juvenile Autoimmune Thyroid Disease In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?


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  1. Gopalakrishnan S, Marwaha RK. Juvenile autoimmune thyroiditis. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Sep;20(9):961-70. 

  2. Cappa M, Bizzarri C, and Crea F. Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases in Children. Journal of Thyroid Research. Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 675703, 13 pages. http://dx.doi.org/10.4061/2011/675703 

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