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Growth Hormone Deficiency
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Treatments Can Help Provide Better Outcomes
Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is a growth disorder associated with inadequate secretion of growth hormone (GH) from the pituitary gland, the "master gland" in the brain.
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Disease Education Information
What Is Growth Hormone Deficiency?
Growth hormone deficiency is a rare disease that can be caused by genetic mutations or acquired after birth. Because the patient's pituitary gland secretes inadequate levels of somatropin, the hormone that causes growth and cell production, his or her height will be affected and puberty delayed. Without treatment, the child will grow to be very short and may experience other health problems.
Who Gets Growth Hormone Deficiency?
Growth hormone deficiency affects one in 4,000 to 10,000 people. It can be congenital, caused by genetic mutation, or acquired after birth, due to trauma, brain tumor, or radiation therapy. It can also be idiopathic, in which case its cause is unknown. In some cases, it can result when patients have undiagnosed problems with their thyroid and adrenal glands.
What Are the Symptoms of Growth Hormone Deficiency?
The symptoms include:
- Overall growth delay
- Short stature
- Maturation delay
- Fluid retention
- Muscle and joint aches
- Slippage of the hip bone
The condition results in a delay in the lengthening of the long bones of the extremities that is not in sync with normal growth for the child's age.
How Is Growth Hormone Deficiency Diagnosed?
Accurate measurements of length (taken from birth to when the patient is two years old) or standing height (from age two onward) should be performed and plotted on the appropriate growth chart. The rate of growth should also be closely monitored, and the child's growth pattern compared with established normal patterns, for children of the same age and gender, to identify any growth lag.
If a growth delay is identified, a blood test should be done to measure levels of insulin growth factor (IGF-I), whose levels depend on growth hormone levels. Assessment of bone age, by x-raying the patient's non-dominant hand, should also be performed.
Growth hormone stimulation testing may be required. This includes the administration of certain hormones and measurement of the hormone before and after their intake.
Can Growth Hormone Deficiency Be Treated?
Treatment involves daily injections of growth hormone for several years. During this time, the child must be seen regularly by the doctor to ensure that treatment is working and the dosage is correct. Older children can learn to give themselves the shot.
The earlier the condition is treated, the better the child's chances of growing to near-normal adult height. Typically, patients grow by four inches or more during their first year of treatment and three or more inches over the next two years. Growth then continues but at a slower rate.
If the condition is not treated, it may lead to delayed puberty and permanently short stature, as well as other metabolic conditions.