Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is a condition where the pituitary gland doesn’t produce growth hormone (HGH). It can affect both children and adults, with causes ranging from birth conditions to brain injuries, tumors, surgeries, or radiation treatments.
As we get older, our HGH levels naturally decrease, along with hormones in our bodies. However, there’s a treatment called hormone replacement therapy that can help stimulate growth in children and improve bone and muscle strength for people of all ages. Ultimately, it aims to enhance the quality of life. If you want to learn more about growth hormone deficiency, its symptoms, and available treatments, keep reading.
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Table of Contents
What is human growth hormone?
A gland at the base of the brain produces the hormone known as human growth hormone (HGH). It gets released into the bloodstream to aid in protein processing and help break down fat. During childhood, growth hormone plays a role in promoting growth while boosting bone and muscle strength. It also affects how body fat is distributed during puberty. It’s interesting to note that this hormone continues to hold significance in adulthood.
Even after the growth phase during childhood and adolescence comes to an end, HGH continues to play a role in maintaining the health of our bones and muscles. Moreover, it helps regulate glucose and lipid levels within our bodies. HGH is also vital for brain function, including processing, focus, memory, and learning. Furthermore, it contributes to mood regulation and motivation.
What are the signs of a deficiency in growth hormone?
The symptoms of growth hormone deficiency can vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience a few symptoms, while others may have more. If you have GH deficiency, you might encounter some of the following signs:
- Feelings of anxiety
- Hair loss among men
- Decreased desire or libido
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dry skin
- Heart issues
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Insulin resistance
- Memory problems
- Reduced bone density, which can increase the risk of fractures, especially among older adults.
- Sensitivity to temperature changes (both hot and cold)
- Challenges with physical exercise due to decreased stamina and strength.
- Unwanted weight gain, particularly around the waist area,.
These symptoms can have an impact on your quality of life. If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms and suspect that you might have a deficiency in growth hormone, it’s important to consult with your doctor. They can provide a diagnosis. Discuss whether hormone replacement therapy could be a suitable option for you.
Even if your symptoms aren’t currently affecting your quality of life, it’s still crucial to communicate with your healthcare provider about how you’re feeling. Adults who have growth hormone deficiency are more likely to develop health issues like diabetes and heart disease.
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What Causes Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD)?
1 in every 4,000 individuals experiences growth hormone deficiency (GHD). There are factors that can lead to this condition. Some people are born with GHD, which is known as growth hormone deficiency. GHD can also develop during childhood and adulthood, referred to as acquired growth hormone deficiency. As we get older, our hormone levels naturally decrease, resulting in a decline in growth hormone levels for older adults. In addition to being congenital, growth hormone deficiency (GHD) can also be the result of illness, a brain tumor, brain surgery, a head injury, hormonal imbalance in the hypothalamus, a pituitary gland infection, a pituitary gland injury, a pituitary tumor, a poor blood supply to the pituitary gland, radiation therapy to the head, or a stroke.
How is growth hormone deficiency diagnosed?
To get a diagnosis for growth hormone deficiency (GHD), you would need to schedule an appointment with either your healthcare provider or an endocrinologist. Endocrinologists are experts who specialize in treating and caring for glands and the hormones they produce.
During your appointment, the doctor will begin by reviewing your history and discussing any symptoms you may be experiencing. They may also inquire about your family’s background. Following this discussion, a physical examination will be conducted.
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How is growth hormone deficiency treated?
Doctors may recommend hormone replacement therapy to bring HGH levels back into a normal range after confirming a diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency. Typically, this involves administering growth hormone medications through injections. The frequency of these injections varies from person to person. Some individuals require doses, while others may only need injections every day.
Regular monitoring by a healthcare professional is necessary once hormone replacement therapy begins. It is recommended to have check-ups with the doctor every 4–8 weeks. During these checkups, blood tests will be done to assess growth hormone levels, such as cholesterol and blood glucose, ensuring they are within a healthy range.
To accurately diagnose growth hormone deficiency, doctors may perform an examination to measure weight, height, and body proportions. They may also order bloodwork and imaging tests to evaluate the levels of growth hormone, binding proteins (such as IGF-1 and IGFPB-3), and other hormones produced by the gland. In addition, there are growth hormone stimulation tests and insulin tolerance tests that can be conducted to detect the presence of growth hormone deficiency.
The growth hormone stimulation test involves multiple blood draws over a period of 2–5 hours using a line. This test helps determine if the symptoms experienced are due to a growth hormone deficiency. On the other hand, the insulin tolerance test is considered a method for diagnosing growth hormone deficiency in adults. It involves injecting insulin and monitoring blood glucose levels at intervals to assess pituitary gland function, adrenal function, and insulin sensitivity.
In some cases, additional tests, like energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or x-rays, may also be performed to assist in diagnosing growth hormone deficiency. These tests are important for assessing factors like bone density and identifying any abnormalities in the gland and hypothalamus.
If you believe that you may have a growth hormone deficiency, it is crucial to seek advice from your doctor. They will perform an examination. Recommend laboratory tests and imaging studies to provide an accurate diagnosis.
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How is growth hormone therapy utilized?
It is vital to undergo growth hormone therapy under the guidance of a professional, such as your primary care physician or an endocrinologist. This treatment should be prescribed only if you have confirmed growth hormone deficiency through blood tests and a thorough physical examination.
Using growth hormone for the purpose of enhancing fitness performance or increasing muscle mass is not advised. This therapy is intended for individuals who have received a diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency from a healthcare expert.
If you suspect that you may have a deficiency in growth hormone, it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider. They will conduct an examination and order laboratory tests to accurately diagnose your condition. If you indeed receive a diagnosis, your healthcare professional may prescribe growth hormone replacement therapy.
If you’re experiencing a lack of growth hormone, using HGH medications might help relieve your symptoms and improve your health and well-being. It’s crucial to keep in mind that only a healthcare professional should prescribe and supervise the use of these medications.
HGH treatment has the potential to boost your bone and muscle strength, increase your energy levels, enhance your mood, and reduce the risk of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.