Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Many health professionals recommend children with anxiety or depression get tested for a thyroid disease, a new study says.
Now, researchers say those screenings need to be targeted to young people who meet certain physical and family criteria for abnormal thyroid function, according to findings published
"I was interested in devising this study because I wanted to better understand any relationship between the physical illness and mood disorder," Marissa Luft, a researcher at University of Cincinnati and study lead author, said in a news release.
The thyroid gland controls the rate at which the body converts food to energy. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the gland produces too many hormones, bringing on anxiety, appetite loss, weight loss and lack of focus.
Conversely, hypothyroidism causes a lack of hormone production, leading to fatigue, weight gain, and lower cognitive ability that resembles depression.
The study included 1,319 patients under age 19 admitted for psychiatric disorders at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Of that group, only about 6 percent had abnormal hormones stimulated by overactive thyroids.
The findings mean doctors treating young people with anxiety and mood disorders should look out for a family history of thyroid disease and weight gain, researchers say. In girls, specifically, they say doctors should also be aware of abnormal uterine bleeding.
If the symptoms are present, though, the researchers say doctors should screen patients for thyroid disease.
"This is the largest study to examine the utility of thyroid function screening in psychiatrically hospitalized youth with severe mood and anxiety disorders, and though it relies on existing medical history data, it does help us better understand the predictors of abnormal thyroid function tests," said Laura Ramsey, a researcher at the University of Cincinnati and study author.