Growth Hormone Deficiency
Growth hormone deficiency refers to abnormally short height in childhood due to the lack of growth hormone.
Growth hormone is produced in the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain.
- Different hormones made in the brain tell the pituitary gland how much growth hormone is needed.
- Growth hormone enters the blood and stimulates the liver to produce a hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which plays a key role in childhood growth.
Abnormally short height in childhood (called short stature) may occur if not enough growth hormone is produced.
Most of the time, no single clear cause of growth hormone deficiency is found.
- Growth hormone deficiency may be present at birth (congenital)
- It may also develop after birth, as the result of a brain injury, tumor, or medical condition
Children with physical defects of the face and skull, such as cleft lip or cleft palate, are more likely to have decreased growth hormone levels.
Although it is uncommon, growth hormone deficiency may also be diagnosed in adults. Possible causes include:
- Brain radiation treatments for cancer
- Hormonal problems involving the pituitary gland or hypothalamus
- Severe head injury
Children with growth hormone deficiency have a slow or flat rate of growth, usually less than 2 inches per year. The slow growth may not appear until a child is 2 or 3 years old.
The child will be much shorter than most or all children of the same age and gender.
A child's short stature will often affect self-esteem. Providing emotional support is an important part of treatment. Children may be teased by classmates and playmates. Family, friends, and teachers should emphasize the child's other skills and strengths.
Treatment involves growth hormone injections given at home. Patients may receive growth hormone several times a week or once a day.
Many children gain 4 or more inches over the first year, and 3 or more inches during the next 2 years. Then the growth rate slowly decreases.
Serious side effects of growth hormone therapy are rare. The most common side effects are:
- Fluid retention
- Muscle and joint aches
*Information from National Institutes of Health (NIH)