Growth hormone deficiency occurs when the pituitary fails to synthesize adequate amounts of the growth hormone. The pituitary is a tiny gland situated at the base of the skull and manufactures several vital hormones.
Approximately, growth hormone deficiency occurs in one in 7000 births. The disorder is treatable. Those who are diagnosed early on, show good prognosis.
The body continues to require the growth hormone even after puberty. In adulthood, the growth hormone maintains metabolism as well as the body structure. Adults are known to develop GHD; however, it is rather rare.
Causes of Growth Hormone Deficiency
Etiological factors for the occurrence of growth hormone deficiency are –
- Children having a cleft lip or cleft palate are known to have poorly developed pituitary glands; hence, they are more likely to have the disorder.
- Growth hormone deficiency may be caused by a tumor mass in the brain. These tumors are usually situated at the site of the pituitary or the adjacent hypothalamus region.
- Severe infections, serious head trauma, and radiation therapy cause GHD.
Symptoms Of Growth Hormone Deficiency
- Children congenitally having growth hormone deficiency are of a shorter stature than others and have young, round faces. They have a lot of fat around the belly abdomen, though their body proportions are normal.
- If a child develops GHD later on, due to a trauma or tumor, the symptom is delayed puberty and sexual development gets hampered.
- Children tend to have low confidence levels because of the developmental delay – such as short stature and sluggish rate of maturing.
- Reduced bone strength is another symptom. This results in frequent fractures.
- Fatigue and poor stamina are common manifestations.
- Psychological symptoms can occur as well – poor concentration, reduced memory, anxiety and depression.
- Adults having growth hormone deficiency are fat and have high cholesterol levels. They are at greater risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Treatment For Growth Hormone Deficiency
Synthetic growth hormone has been used with great success to treat growth hormone deficiency in children as well as adults. Before the advent of synthetic growth hormone, natural growth hormone obtained from cadavers was used for GHD management.
Growth hormone is given by injection, into the fatty tissues, like the thighs, back of the arms or buttocks. It is normally an everyday treatment.
Side effects are associated with growth hormone injections, however, they are generally minor – redness at the site of the injection site, headache, curving of the spine, in rare cases, long-term injections could trigger diabetes mellitus, more so, in those who have a family history of the disease.
Children diagnosed with congenital growth hormone deficiency are treated with synthetic growth hormone until puberty. Frequently, children who have too little growth hormone in their youth tend to naturally start to manufacture enough of the hormone as they become adults. On the other hand, some need treatment for their whole lives. Your health care provider / endocrinologist will decide the injections that you need by monitoring the growth hormone levels in your blood.
People respond very well to growth hormone treatment. The sooner you start the treatment, the better the prognosis will be.