Human growth hormone is a multipurpose substance which helps with promotion of growth and development in humans. It assists in cell repair and cell regeneration among other vital functions. Sometimes, as a result of one factor or the order, the level of the hormone in the body may not be sufficient to promote best state of health. Certain signs and symptoms will be presented when this is the case. It helps to know some of these symptoms to enable you seek urgent medical help while it is most beneficial.
Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is the result of an inefficient pituitary gland. This pea-sized gland which is found at the lower part of the brain not only produces growth hormone, but also some other hormones required for the proper functioning of the body. When it fails to produce enough growth hormone needed by the body, we have the problem of GHD. This has serious implications on growth and development, especially in children. It negatively affects body tissues and bone density. The deficiency is believed to affect children more than adults and is reported to occur in about one of every 7,000 births. HGH is more essential to children and adolescents than to adults. For this reason, GHD is treated with more seriousness among young people who are still growing.
Growth hormone deficiency may sometimes be easily detected through the changes they produce in the body. The signs and symptoms of this disorder differ between people of different age groups.
The most obvious and common symptom of GHD is short stature. A child with the disorder will usually be significantly shorter than those of similar age. A healthy child with sufficient level of growth hormone is expected to grow at about two and half inches a year. Growth continues around this rate until puberty when height can increase by as much as four inches each year. This is not the case for those with growth hormone deficiency. Children with this disorder are known to add less than two inches per year, which gives rise to short stature. It should be noted, however, that some children may have this issue and still have normal body proportions.
Delayed puberty is another symptom of growth hormone deficiency in children. This typically occurs when this disorder presents itself later in a child's life. There is also the possibility of sexual development being impeded. Boys may not experience manly development such as deeper voice and broader shoulders. In the case of young women, they may not develop female features, such as breasts, at the same time as their peers.
Other GHD symptoms that may be observed in children include:
The symptoms of growth hormone deficiency vary between individuals. They also differ between children and adults. In the case of the latter group, certain changes in body composition are possible signs of the problem. A growth hormone deficient adult may experience increase in fat mass, particularly in the central region. This is what is known as central adiposity, a problem that can be rather tough to deal with. An older person with GHD could also notice loss of lean muscle mass.
The following are some of the other signs and symptoms that may be present in adults when this disorder is present:
The symptoms listed are not exhaustive – there are several more. In some cases, these symptoms may be masked by other hormones such as thyroxin or testosterone.
Growth hormone deficiency is an effect of an under-performing pituitary gland. It is either the result of low production or total lack of secretion of HGH, or somatotropin, by the gland. The cause could be congenital or acquired in nature. When a person is born with GHD, the cause of the disorder is said to be congenital. Experts, however, says the deficiency is rarely inherited from one’s parents. Congenital GHD has been linked to an abnormality of the pituitary gland and can also be the effect of another disorder. It has been observed that children who have cleft palates or lips are more likely to have the condition as they commonly have badly-developed pituitary gland.
Acquired growth hormone deficiency (AGHD) is a disorder that was not present at birth, but that developed later in life. It may be the result of tumors in the brain. These tumors often affect the pituitary gland or hypothalamus regions of the brain.
Possible causes of growth hormone deficiency also include:
Physical changes are first examined in diagnosing growth hormone deficiency. In the case of a young person, the doctor will assess certain milestones, such as weight and height, according to what is considered standard. Parents may be asked about their growth rate while approaching puberty. Information on the growth rate of the siblings of the affected child will also be requested.
Certain tests may be ordered to confirm or disprove the existence of GHD issues. Biochemical testing to diagnose the disorder will usually include full or complete blood count, kidney and thyroid function tests. Testosterone, estrogen and IGF-1 tests may be ordered as well. X-rays and MRI imaging could also be included among the tests needed to make the right diagnosis. Comprehensive testing can help to determine whether the disorder is congenital or acquired.
Synthetic growth hormone, also known as somatropin, is used for the treatment of individuals with confirmed GHD. The use of HGH injections for dealing with the disorder has been on since the mid-1980s when the hormone was first synthesized. Prior to that time, doctors had used natural HGH extracted from cadavers for treatment. Somatropin therapy attracts rather exorbitant price and is only available on prescription. It also comes with some side effects sometimes.
A child receiving HGH therapy may need to continue doing so until they reach adulthood. In some cases, GHD patients are advised to continue receiving the injections for the rest of their lives to be able to live a healthy life. Levels of the hormone are usually monitored to determine if there is need for ongoing treatment. Experts say some children with GHD sometimes begin to produce sufficient amount of growth hormone as they become adults.
Some of the symptoms discussed here may be associated with certain other conditions. Your doctor is in the best position to determine if they are the results of growth hormone deficiency or not. You will benefit from seeking medical advice if you do notice one or several of the symptoms. Better outcomes are likely to be obtained when therapy is started early.
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