Most people will be worried if an endocrinologist diagnosed their kid with Growth hormone deficiency (GHD). If you have no idea what GHD is, worry no more. GHD is a condition that occurs when the pituitary gland fails to produce enough growth hormone. The disease mostly affects children and is rare among adults.
So what is a pituitary gland? It is a pea-sized small gland located at the base of the skull and releases eight hormones. Some of these hormones will help control your body temperature and thyroid activity.
According to statistics, GHD occurs roughly in one out of 7000 births. If you suspect your kid is not meeting weight and growth standards, there is some good news; growth hormone deficiency is treatable. If diagnosis happens early, your kid will recover very well. However, if you leave GHD untreated, it can cause shorter than average weight and height and delayed puberty.
Did you know that your body still requires growth hormone even after puberty? The growth hormone maintains your metabolism and body structure as an adult. For this reason, you can develop GHD as an adult, but it is uncommon.
What are the symptoms of Growth Hormone Deficiency?
One symptom you should watch out for is if a kid is shorter than his or her peers are or has a rounder, younger face. Kids with growth hormone deficiency can also be chubby or have some “baby fat” around their abdomen, even if their body proportions are normal. If the condition develops later in a kid’s life, such as the formation of tumor or brain injury, its primary symptom will be delayed puberty or halted sexual development in some cases.
What are the effects of GHD?
There is no fun in being shorter or chubbier than your peers are. For this reason, most teens with GHD tend to have low self-esteem because of developmental delays like slow maturing rate or short stature. For instance, a young woman with GHD might not develop breasts, and a young man’s voice might not deepen. Another effect of GHD is reduced bone strength, which might lead to repeated fractures.
Additionally, individuals with low levels of growth hormone may lack stamina and fell tired most of the time. Other effects are lack of concentration, depression, poor memory, and instances of emotional stress on anxiety.
Diagnosis of Growth Hormone Deficiency
Your kid’s endocrinologist might decide to look for signs of growth hormone deficiency if your kid does not meet the weight and height milestones. The endocrinologist will ask you about your rate of growth as you approached puberty, as long as that of your other children if you have any.
The endocrinologist will conduct tests to confirm the diagnosis if he suspects growth hormone deficiency, these include:
- Blood test – will measure growth hormone in your kid’s body. However, growth hormone levels change widely throughout the day. Therefore, a blood test that shows lower than normal levels might not be enough evidence for a diagnosis.
- Growth plates – these are developing tissues at each end of the kid’s leg and arm bones. They fuse together if a person is fully developed. An x-ray of your kid’s hand can show their bone growth level.
- Thyroid and kidney function tests – they can determine how your kid’s body produces and uses hormones.
- MRI imaging scan – it happens if the endocrinologist suspects damage to the pituitary gland or a tumor in the brain. The scan will give the endocrinologist a detailed look in the brain.
So what causes growth hormone deficiency?
Growth hormone deficiency is a result of low or no secretion of growth hormone from the pituitary gland. This might result from acquired or congenital conditions. Congenital conditions are present at birth while acquired conditions occur after birth.
Congenital GHD can be associated with an abnormal pituitary gland or can be a part of another condition. As you, age usually, the amount of growth hormone you secret each day reduces. Acquired causes of GHD include brain tumors, infections, surgery, injury, or radiation to the head.
Treating growth hormone deficiency
The good thing is you can manage GHD. Since the mid-1980s, endocrinologists have been using synthetic growth hormones effectively to treat both children and adults. Before that, they were using natural growth hormones from cadavers for treatment.
Endocrinologists prescribe growth hormone by injection, mostly into the fatty tissues of the body such as buttocks, back of the arms or thighs. Use of growth hormone is most useful as a daily treatment.
Use of HGH to Treat GHD
The human growth hormone is essential in treating growth hormone deficiency. The HGH helps stimulate height as well as build muscles and bones in the body. Scientists have designed the hormone to copy the behavior of natural HGH in the body. Endocrinologists will give the doses several times a week or daily depending on how severe the GHD is. However, you can administer HGH treatments by yourself.
How does Human Growth Hormone Work?
Human growth hormone is a synthetic version of the growth hormone produced in your brain. When your body isn’t producing enough, you will be given human growth hormones to supplement the levels of growth hormones in your system.
Your body will then be able to attain maximum growth. Your organs, tissues and cells will be stimulated to grow the exact same way it would if you had enough growth hormones.
Is it safe to use human growth hormone to treat GHD?
Yes, the growth hormone injections are safe for your kid. However, they have a few side effects. Fortunately, it is rare to experience severe side effects. Some of the common side effects are numbness, swelling, muscle, joint pains, and aches. These side effects might be a sign that you are receiving more growth hormones than your body needs. If you are experiencing such symptoms, talk to your endocrinologist as soon as possible.
The endocrinologist will adjust your HGH Dosage. Once the endocrinologists change the dose to the right amount, the symptoms will disappear on their own. Note that there are people who should never take growth hormones, such as those with cancer or tumors.
Additionally, those with multiple injuries, the seriously ill, or with severe breathing issues should never have HGH injections.
Long-term GHD treatment
Kids with GHD often receive growth hormone injections until they reach puberty. Mostly, kids with less growth hormone when they are young will naturally start to produce enough after puberty. However, there are those who will remain in treatment throughout their lives. Your endocrinologist should determine if you or your kid needs ongoing injections by monitoring the hormone levels in the blood.
Growth hormone deficiency should not scare you. Thankfully, synthetic growth hormones are available to help correct the problem and help you or your child reach their potential growth limits.