About Growth Hormone Deficiency
Growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland, a gland that is located at the base of the skull. It secretes eight hormones. Growth hormone deficiency occurs if the pituitary gland is not able to produce enough growth hormone. It occurs in 1 out of 7000 births.(1)
It can be by birth (congenital) or can develop later in life (acquired).
Children with growth hormone deficiency are not able to attain proper height and weight according to age. Growth hormone deficiency is treatable and if diagnosed early recovery is good. If left untreated Growth hormone deficiency can lead to shorter than average height and delayed puberty.
Growth hormone is required by the body even after puberty. It plays the role in maintaining body structure and metabolism in adulthood.
Causes of Growth Hormone Deficiency
Growth hormone deficiency if not present by birth can be due to a tumor in the brain. This tumor is located at the site of the pituitary gland near the hypothalamus region of the brain.
Serious head injuries, infection, and radiation treatments are the other causes of growth hormone deficiency.
Sometimes it can also be a result of lower levels of other hormones such as vasopressin ( controls water production in the body), gonadotropins (control the production of male and female sex hormones), thyrotropins (control the production of thyroid hormone), and adrenocorticotrophic hormone (controls adrenal glands and related hormones).
Symptoms of Growth Hormone Deficiency
Children with growth hormone deficiency have a short height and younger-looking shorter face. They may have baby fat around the abdomen.
If growth hormone deficiency develops later in life due to any reason including brain injury or tumor there can be delayed puberty and in some cases, sexual development is halted.
Teens with growth hormone deficiency have low self-esteem because of developmental delays such as short stature and a slow rate of maturing.
In some females, the breast would not develop, and in young men, the voice would not change at the same rate as their peers.
Adults with growth hormone deficiency have reduced bone strength, which may lead to frequent fractures. There may also be high levels of fat in the blood, which may be due to changes in metabolism caused by deficient growth hormones. Adults with low growth hormones are also at risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Those with low growth hormone levels may feel tired and low in stamina. There may also be sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. Few other symptoms experienced in growth hormone deficiency are:
- Poor memory
- Anxiety and emotional distress
- Lack of concentration
How is Growth Hormone Deficiency Diagnosed?
In a child, the doctor looks for the signs of growth hormone deficiency if the child is not able to meet the height and weight milestone. He would enquire about the parent’s growth rate as well as the child’s growth rate. If growth hormone deficiency is suspected a few tests are advised.
The level of growth hormone fluctuates varies widely through day and night. A blood test showing lower than the normal result is not enough to make a diagnosis.
A blood test that can measure the level of proteins that are the markers of growth hormone function is much more stable. These proteins are IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) and IGFPB-3 (insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3).
A growth hormone stimulation test may also be recommended if deficiency is detected in screening tests.
X-rays can help determine the level of bone growth in a child.
If a tumor is suspected in the pituitary gland, an MRI imaging scan can help provide a detailed look at the inside of the brain.
Tests can also determine whether the pituitary condition is by birth or is brought by injury or tumor.
How is Growth Hormone Deficiency Treated?
Synthetic growth hormones have been used in the treatment of children and adults. Before these growth hormones from cadavers were used for treatment.
Growth hormone is injected into the body’s fatty tissues in the back of the arm, thigh, or buttock.
There are usually minor side effects that include:
Long-term treatment of growth hormone may lead to diabetes especially in people with a family history of the same.
Children with growth hormone deficiency are treated with growth hormone until they reach puberty. Most often children with low growth hormone in their youth begin producing enough of it as they enter adulthood.
If growth hormone deficiency is suspected, make an appointment with a doctor. The sooner treatment is started, the better is the result.