Growth Hormone Deficiency Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

What is growth hormone deficiency?

Growth hormone deficiency is a condition that means the pituitary gland does not make enough growth hormone. It more commonly affects children than adults. This condition occurs in roughly 1 in 7,000 births. The condition is also a symptom of several genetic diseases, including Turner syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome.

Children who are found early to have the condition often recover very well. If left untreated, the condition can result in shorter-than-average height and delayed puberty. Your body still needs growth hormone after you have finished puberty. Once you are in adulthood, the growth hormone maintains your body structure and metabolism. Adults can also develop growth hormone deficiency. However, it is not as common.
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Adult growth hormone deficiency (AGHD) is a recognized by the clinical syndrome that is associated with debilitating symptoms affecting quality of life, psychosocial functioning and a number of metabolic abnormalities, and which can improve with growth hormone (GH) replacement therapy.

Causes of growth hormone deficiency

The deficiency in growth hormone is mostly brought about by effects whose onset are at birth. These effects are mainly on the pituitary glands or the hypothalamus parts of your brain. It is only through proper diagnosis that you can be able to know the cause of this condition. Some of the causes are as follows:

Cleft palate: Children with this condition are likely to suffer from growth hormone deficiency. This is because the pituitary glands are very poorly developed and so the likelihood is high.

On the other hand, a tumor in the brain is also a likely cause of this condition. These tumors are normally found in the pituitary glands or the nearby hypothalamus region of the brain.

Apart from that, serious head injuries, infections and radiation treatments can pre-expose growth hormone deficiency. This is medically termed as acquired growth hormone deficiency.

The aging process has also been linked to the decrease in the secretion of growth hormone and hence deficiency. This is because the functioning of the pituitary gland reduces as you age.

In adults the most common cause (76 per cent) of GH deficiency is a pituitary tumor or a consequence of its treatment such as surgery and/or radiotherapy.

Other rarer causes include inflammatory diseases affecting the pituitary gland such as sarcoidosis and hemorrhage into the pituitary gland.

What are the symptoms of growth hormone deficiency?

Those children who present with this condition are often shorter than their peers and have younger, rounder faces. Similarly, they may also be chubby or have “baby fat” around the abdomen, even though their body proportions are normal.

In case Growth Hormone Deficiency develops later in a child’s life, such as from a brain injury or tumor, its main symptom is delayed puberty. In some other cases, sexual development is halted.

Most of the teenagers with Growth hormone deficiency experience low self-esteem due to developmental delays such as short stature or a slow rate of maturing. For example, young women may not develop breasts and young men’s voices may not change at the same rate as their peers.

More still, reduced bone strength is another symptom of acquired growth hormone deficiency. This may lead to more frequent fractures, especially in older adults. People with low growth hormone levels may feel tired and lack stamina. They may experience sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.

Apart from the above, there are a variety of psychological symptoms that can occur, they include:

  • Bouts of anxiety or emotional distress
  • Depression
  • Lack of concentration
  • Poor memory

Those adults who have acquired growth hormone deficiency (AGHD), they typically have high levels of fat in the blood and high cholesterol. This isn’t due to poor diet, but rather to changes in the body’s metabolism caused by low levels of growth hormone. Adults with AGHD are at greater risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Individuals with growth hormone deficiency have a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. There is some data that suggests that GH deficiency in adulthood is associated with dyslipidaemia, insulin resistance, increased inflammatory markers, endothelial dysfunction, and higher coronary artery calcium score – a marker of early atherosclerosis.

Treatment

Successful management of adults with growth hormone deficiency requires an effective shared care partnership between primary and secondary care. This would lead to improved and increased therapeutic outcomes.

The most common treatment for growth hormone deficiency in both children and adults is growth hormone therapy which involves injections of growth hormone into the body, a service found on a such a source website.

The treatment for growth hormone deficiency is administration of recombinant human growth hormone by subcutaneous injection (under the skin) once a day. The specialist in infants and children condition, The pediatric endocrinologist calculates the initial dose based on weight, and then bases the dose on response and puberty.

You will also be instructed on how to administer the growth hormone to the child at home, rotating injection sites among the arms, legs, buttocks, and stomach. The length of growth hormone treatment depends on how well the child’s height responds to growth hormone injections and how puberty affects the growth. Usually, the child is on growth hormone injections until growth is complete, which is sometimes many years.

Usually, you will be required to need to see your doctor every 4 to 8 weeks throughout your treatment so that your doctor can monitor your condition. He or she will test your progress and perform blood tests to help determine whether more growth hormone is needed.

Similarly, your doctor will also monitor your cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, and bone density periodically while you are still on growth hormone injections to make sure they are always at healthy levels. Taking growth hormone can impact how the body responds to insulin, which controls blood glucose levels. Untreated growth hormone deficiency can lead to high cholesterol and osteoporosis.

Apart from that, always ensure that you report any side effects that may occur in the course of time.  The effects might be dangerous and life costing if not reported early enough for an action to be taken.

Early reporting helps eliminate the bad effects and maximize on the good ones.

Sources and References

  1. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/growth-disorders/growth-hormone-therapy
  2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/psb.1422/pdf
  3. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/growth_hormone_deficiency/article_em.htm
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001176.htm
  5. http://www.childgrowthfoundation.org/CMS/FILES/02_Growth_Hormone_Deficiency.pdf
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