Hormonal Imbalance In Children

7 min read

Balance is an important factor that sustains the world. This balance itself is the reason we lead our life beautifully. When the balance has been tampered with, problems arise. This is relevant to your child’s body too. Find out everything about hormonal imbalance in children.

Hormone Imbalance In Children

The Endocrine System and Its Glands

The growth, development, moods, and even character formation of your child depends on his endocrine system. The endocrine system consists of nine glands:

  • Pituitary gland
  • Thyroid gland
  • Pancreas
  • Adrenal gland
  • Testes / ovaries
  • Thymus
  • Parathyroid
  • Penial
  • Hypothalamus

Each of these glands produces specific hormones which have a vital part in your child’s life. From sleeping to cell repair, from appetite to metabolism, from blood pressure to pain regulation, everything is highly influenced by hormones. Keeping the right level of hormone in the bloodstream is important for daily body functions.

The critical task of regulating hormones by the endocrine system can be hampered due to various reasons. This will result in releasing a particular hormone too much or too little than the required level.

These ups and downs of hormonal levels create what may be termed as ‘hormonal imbalance’ in children. Often the diseases that arise due to hormonal imbalances are passed off as other reasons. For example, obesity is always connected with an unhealthy diet when the original culprit is the imbalanced hormone.

What Causes Hormonal Imbalance in Children?

There is a perfect feedback system for the endocrine glands that signals when there are slight changes in the hormone level. Therefore, any issues can be regulated fast and maintain the hormonal balance. Psychological issues and health issues may affect this feedback system, resulting in hormonal imbalance.

Some of the health issues that cause hormonal imbalance in children are:

  • Infection of an endocrine gland.
  • Failure of a gland to activate another gland to produce hormones. For example, the failure of the hypothalamus gland can hinder the production of the growth hormone which is produced by the pituitary gland.
  • Most of the tumors that occur in the endocrine gland are non-cancerous, but they will meddle with the hormone production of that gland.
  • Hereditary is an important reason behind a hormonal imbalance in children.
  • Injury to an endocrine gland will affect its hormone production.

Psychological causes include stress and strain they face in day-to-day life.

hormone illustration

Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance In Children

Depending on the endocrine gland, children may exhibit different signs of hormonal imbalance. In some cases, endocrine disorders may not show up for months or years.

However, the following symptoms are common among children experiencing hormonal imbalance:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Thinning of hair
  • Unhealthy hair and nails
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Failure to meet growth milestones
  • Dry skin
  • Headaches
  • Heightened thirst or hunger
  • Irritability

The production of sex hormones starts during puberty. Sex hormone imbalances may manifest in children at this stage:

Signs of sex hormone imbalance in boys are:

  • Sparsely growing body hair
  • Muscle mass development lacks
  • Arms and legs grow out of proportion with respect to the trunk of the body
  • The voice fails to deepen
  • Evident issue in growth and appearance of penis and testicles

Signs of sex hormone imbalance in girls are:

  • Lack of menstruation
  • Lack of breast tissue development
  • Noticeably  reduced growth rate

If you find the above-mentioned signs in your child, it is mandatory to consult a doctor regarding this.

What Conditions Can Arise Due to Hormonal Imbalance in Balance?

Hormonal imbalance has a far-reaching effect on growing children. Some of the psychological issues that arise due to the hormonal imbalance among children include anxiety, hyperactivity, mood swings, poor social habits, inability to concentrate, etc.

Health Issues That Arise Due to Hormonal Imbalance in Children

health issues due to hormone imbalance

Following are some of the health condition in children that is triggered by hormonal imbalance.

1. Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Without insulin, the glucose (formed as the result of breaking down of sugar) in the blood can’t be absorbed by the body cells resulting in high blood sugar levels. This is caused when the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (islets) are destroyed due to some reasons.

In type 2 diabetes, even if insulin is produced by the pancreas, the body fails to assimilate it (insulin resistance) results in high blood sugar levels. Or the insulin produced by the pancreas won’t be sufficient to maintain the normal blood sugar level. To know more about diabetes in children click here.

2. Delayed Puberty

In boys, puberty starts between nine and fourteen years old. Signs of puberty in boys are deepened voice, facial hair, testicle, and penis get larger and muscle development.

No enlargement of the testicle by the age of 14 and absence of facial hair is the signs of delayed puberty in boys. Problems in the pituitary or thyroid gland are the major reasons behind delayed puberty. To know more about puberty in boys click here.

In girls, puberty starts around 8 years and definitely before 13 years. Usually, they get their first period after 3 to 4 years of the first sign of puberty – developing breast and under-arm hair. No breast development by the age of 13 and no periods by the age of 16 are the sign of delayed puberty. To know more about puberty in girls click here.

delayed puberty

3. Precocious Puberty

The onset of puberty at an unusually early stage – in girls before 8 years and in boys before 10 years – is called precocious puberty. Usually, the brain releases a hormone called Gn-RH (Gonadotropin Release Hormone). This hormone stimulates the pituitary gland to release two hormones – LH and FSH.

These hormones are responsible for the production of sex hormones. When this chain is disturbed the chances of overproduction of sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone) by respective glands will increase. Excessive production of sex hormones is the main reason behind Precocious puberty.

Read our piece on early puberty in girls here.

4. Gigantism

Sometimes overproduction of growth hormone by the pituitary gland results in the abnormal growth of body parts resulting in gigantism.

5. Cushing’s Syndrome

Cushing’s syndrome or hypercortisolism happens when the cortisol level(a steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal glands.) raises abnormally high in the body of the child. Overuse of corticosteroid medicines is the main reason for Cushing’s syndrome.

6. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism happens due to the overacting of the thyroid gland results in releasing too many thyroid hormones into the bloodstream of the child. A child with this disorder shows trouble in sleeping and concentrating, a wide eye that bulged out, more appetite yet low weight.

7. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid gland is underactive and cannot release enough thyroid hormones into the bloodstream of the child. A child with this disorder always feels tired.

They feel cold when the temperature of the room is normal to everyone else in the room. Loss of hair, dry skin, and constipation are other symptoms.

8. Obesity

There are several hormones that cause obesity in children:

  • When the growth hormone level is low in blood the metabolism (burning calories) is affected resulting in obesity.
  • Fat cells create a hormone called leptin. This reduces a child’s appetite by acting with the brain. The children with obesity, for some reason, don’t feel full after a good meal in spite of their leptin level being higher.
  • The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin imbalance is found to trigger obesity.

Click here to read more about tips to prevent obesity in children.

9. Growth Hormone Imbalance

Growth hormone deficiency is associated with the pituitary gland. When the pituitary gland secretes less growth hormone or no growth hormones at all results in:

  • Low growth speed
  • Delayed tooth development
  • Looking younger than other children of the same age
  • Increased fat around the waist area

10. Hormonal Disorders Due to Genetic Reasons Includes the Following

a) Turner Syndrome

Girls contracts this syndrome. This condition occurs when the girl is born with only one X chromosome instead of a XX chromosome. Girls with this syndrome have underdeveloped ovaries.

This will affect sexual development and the ability to have children. Physical features that make a girl with turner syndrome different from a normal girl are:

  • Low hairline
  • Webbed neck
  • Shorter than other girls of the same age
  • Broad chest with widely placed nipple
  • A large number of moles
  • Develops learning difficulties

b) Klinefelter Syndrome

Boys contracts this syndrome. This is a condition that occurs when the boy is born with an extra X-chromosome. Instead of a normal XY sex chromosome, the boy will have an XXY sex chromosome.

The low testosterone (male hormone) level is the main symptom. When compared to other kids of his age the boy with Klinefelter syndrome will be:

  • Less muscular
  • Less facial and body hair
  • Smaller testes
  • The female pattern of fat distribution
  • Girlish voice
  • Shy, sensitive, and less active than other boys

How to Treat Hormonal Imbalance In Children?

Treatment of hormonal imbalance in children depends on several factors like severity, causes, etc. Only an endocrinologist could suggest an appropriate treatment. So consult a pediatric endocrinologist as soon as you doubt a hormonal imbalance in your child.

Whatever treatment the doctor instructs, it is equally important to urge the child to focus on healthy lifestyles along with the medication. Therefore urging the child to do good exercises, practicing yoga, practicing healthy food habits along with medication prescribed by the doctor will increase the results. Also, it is very important to focus on the intake of healthy fats and refrain from refined carbs.

Hormonal imbalances may increase your child’s risk of contracting obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems in the immediate future. Therefore, it is important to promptly find and seek immediate medical attention for hormonal imbalance in children.

FAQ’s

1. Can Children Experience Hormonal Imbalance?

Yes, they can. Just like adults, those tiny bodies need a balance too. This balance can be disturbed due to a variety of reasons.

2. If my Child has Hormonal Imbalance, Does it Mean They are not Normal?

No, not at all. This is similar to an adult having a thyroid issue. Your child is perfectly normal but just needs some medical help.

3. Can my Child’s Hormonal Imbalance be Due to Psychological Reasons?

Yes, it can. Kids also suffer mentally. A trauma can cause a hormonal imbalance in your child.

4. Can Hormonal Imbalance Cause an Eating Disorder in my Child?

Yes, it can. A hormonal imbalance can make your child eat too much and never feel full. Your child can also go without food and not feel hungry at all.

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