Growth Hormone Deficiency
Updated: Jul 15, 2022
By Aleena Kuriakose
Have you ever wondered what makes you grow taller, or grow in general? Well, that would be due to the hard work of the growth hormone (GH) — a hormone that stimulates growth, cellular reproduction, and cell regeneration. In other words, GH impacts our height and is responsible for developing our bones and muscles. GH is produced by the pituitary gland, which is known as the master gland since it regulates the functions of many of the other endocrine glands.
If the GH helps us grow, then why do we stop growing at a certain point? The reason why none of us are twenty feet tall is because once the growth plates in the epiphyses have fused — a process known as epiphysiodesis — growth is stopped and height does not increase.
When the pituitary gland produces too little GH, it can result in poor growth in children and often leads to a shorter stature than their peers. In adults, it can cause a reduced sense of wellbeing psychologically, increased fat, and an elevated risk of heart disease and weak heart, muscles and bones. Therefore, it is especially important to diagnose GH deficiency in children to maximize the proper amount of growth and to benefit them psychologically as well.
GH deficiency is marked by factors such as a younger-looking face, impaired hair growth, delayed puberty, and stunted height development after the child's third birthday. However, GH deficiency does not impact a child's intelligence.
To diagnose GH deficiency, a physician (most notably an endocrinologist) will check for conditions such as normal variations of growth, such as familial short stature, disorders such as thyroid deficiency or kidney disease, and genetic conditions.
The physician may also have the child take medical tests, such as blood tests, X-ray scans, CT scans, and MRI scans. Conducting blood tests allows for a measurement of growth hormone and other related hormone levels. X-ray scans allow for an estimation of the child's bone age when often times with delayed puberty, the bone age is younger than the calendar age. CT scans provide more detailed images than X-rays and MRI scans use large magnets and a computer to produce detailed images of the tissues in the body.
Treatment for GH Deficiency
Treatment is usually done through administering daily injections of synthetic growth hormone. Response to this treatment varies among children. Not all children respond well to the synthetic GH, and it does not make the child taller than his/her parents. Generally, results show three to four months after the initial treatment and lasts until late puberty.