We know you may have a lot of queries when your child gets diagnosed with HGH deficiency. Questions which may pop up in your mind like- Is this condition dangerous? What should we do? Will it affect my child in the long run? And many more. We have tried to cover the topic of HGH deficiency and how to detect it through this post.
Basically a growth hormone deficiency takes place when the pituitary gland is not able to produce sufficient amount of natural growth hormone. This condition is more common among children than adults but many adults face it too. Pituitary gland is a very small, pea sized gland that is located at the base of the brain and that secretes 8 hormones. Some of these control the body temperature and thyroid function of the body. You will be surprised to know that growth hormone deficiency occurs in about 1 in every 7000 births. This condition is even a symptom of various genetic diseases like Prader Willi syndrome and Turner syndrome to name a few.
Let’s get into detail and know what this deficiency is all about, how to detect it and the best ways to treat the condition.
What is growth hormone deficiency?
Growth hormone deficiency is a problem that can take different forms and depend on one patient to another. GH is a protein that is produced by the pituitary gland and is located near the base of the brain. In cases where the hypothalamus or pituitary gland is damaged or malformed, it may be possible that the pituitary gland is not able to produce growth hormone. If the gland lacks in various pituitary hormones, then the condition is called as hypopituitarism.
Now as you have a rough idea as to what GH deficiency is, let’s know the symptoms patients may see in such a case.
GHD symptoms in children
The most common sign of GHD in children is that they are relatively shorter in height than other kids of the same age. But at the same time, the child with this problem may have normal body proportions. The children with GHD issue typically grow less than two inches each year. On the other hand, the children with normal GH levels grow 2 and a half inches per year from age 1 till they hit their puberty phase where they can grow up to 4 inches per year.
Below we list the common GHD symptoms in children:
- Delayed puberty
- The face may appear to be younger than children of same age
- Slow development of teeth
- Dirty and sluggish hair growth
- Increased fat accumulation around the stomach and face
Now, let’s discuss the symptoms faced by adults who suffer from growth hormone deficiency:
Symptoms of GHD in adults may vary from one person to another and many adults who have this problem can face a combination of symptoms below:
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Thin and dry skin
- Tiredness and/or fatigue
- Baldness in men
- Insulin resistance
- Reduced sexual function
- Reduced muscle mass
- Heart issues
- High level of bad cholesterol
- Problem in concentration
- Lack of memory
- Elevated triglyceride level
- Sensitivity to too cold and too hot
- Low levels of energy
- Reduced bone density
Adults with growth hormone deficiency fall under two groups- those who have GHD since childhood and those that acquire it in adulthood because of hypothalamic pituitary disease. The international guidelines advocate that the patients with childhood onset GHD should take repeat assessment once they reach the final adult height. A lot of children will have normal adult growth hormone reserve when tested again in adulthood and so GH replacement is not required in such cases. Also, children with serious GHD and other pituitary hormone deficiencies do not need retesting in their adult life.
Various tests are available for diagnosing GHD in adults and many debates still go on about the appropriate tests. The availability of various testing models lays emphasis on the complexities involved in making accurate diagnosis and the requirement to individualize testing for patient’s clinical situations.
In case of both adults and children, GHD can be diagnosed and these tests and exams used to diagnose GHD are the same, irrespective of the age. Diagnosing GHD generally starts with a general physical examination. This can help the doctor in knowing if there are any symptoms of slow or delayed growth. Also, the doctor will then check your height, weight and body measurements. This is mainly crucial in detecting a child with GHD. The child with such a deficiency does not generally follow the normal growth chart like other children. Their rate of development is rather very slow and the child is shorter in height than children of same age. Other than this physical exam, there are other tests as well to make GHD diagnosis possible in both children and adults.
Thyroid function and kidney test can show how the body is using and producing the hormones. In case the medical practitioner suspects tumor or some other damage to pituitary gland, MRI imaging scan can help to provide a detailed look of the brain. GH levels will be screened in the adults with history of pituitary disorders, brain injury or who require brain surgery. Testing can thus determine if the pituitary condition was there at the time of birth or brought on by some injury or tumor.
Blood tests to detect GHD
These are the common blood tests recommended for GHD diagnosis:
- Blood tests to measure GH level amount in the blood
- IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 tests to determine whether the growth issue is due to pituitary gland
- Insulin tolerance test
- Blood tests to measure other hormones that the pituitary gland produces
- GHRH Arginine test
- Growth hormone stimulation test
Other tests to detect GHD
In addition to the various blood tests, your doctor may also perform some exams to diagnose the deficiency.
- X rays of head can show problems with bone development of the skull
- Dual energy X ray absorptiometry scan to measure bone density
- Hand X rays can help to show your bones- size and shape of the bones change when a person grows. The doctor can see if there are any bone abnormalities
- An MRI of brain can be done to see the hypothalamus and pituitary gland
So, this is all about growth hormone deficiency and the ways to detect it. You should speak with your doctor if you notice any symptoms of GHD as mentioned above in the post. The medical practitioner will be the best person to diagnose the problem and help you out with the right solution/treatment.