Growth Hormone Deficiency

 

What is Growth Hormone Deficiency?

Growth hormone deficiency happens when the body does not produce enough growth hormone. Growth hormone is made by the pituitary gland and leads to the development of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). In a healthy child, growth hormone is responsible for growing taller and developing muscles. While it is normal for adults to produce less growth hormone over time, healthy adults need a certain amount of growth hormone to allow the body to function appropriately. Blood tests assist in the diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency. 

Causes

The cause of growth hormone deficiency is sometimes unknown. Some children are born with a deficiency and others develop deficiency due to an injury or medical condition. Deficiency may initially be suspected based on symptoms and a “flat” curve on a child’s growth chart. Adults are diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency much less frequently, and it may be the result of tumors, previous head injury, and radiation treatments.

Symptoms

A slow rate of growth is the primary symptom of growth hormone deficiency in children. This often does not become noticeable until the child is two or three years of age. Children may also appear younger than their age and appear “chubby.” Growth Hormone Deficiency may also delay or halt puberty. Adults with growth hormone deficiency may experience symptoms that include fatigue, emotional changes, and muscle and body fat changes.  

Managing Growth Hormone Deficiency

Management often depends on the cause of the deficiency. Please work with your health care provider to understand your condition and develop a treatment plan.

Medications

Children and adults may need to be treated with medications for growth hormone deficiency. Treatment typically involves daily growth hormone injections given at home. For children, earlier treatment generally produces a better outcome. It is possible to gain four or more inches over the first year and three or more over the next two years. 

The most common side effects of growth hormone injections can include pain at the injection site, fluid retention, and muscle and joint aches. 

Resources

The Human Growth Foundation
The Magic Foundation