HGH Deficiency


What is HGH deficiency?

It can be both a total or a partial condition, resulting in impaired physical development.

HGH is produced in the pituitary gland (hypophysis), a small gland situated on the underside of the brain. Secretion is controlled by other hormones released by a different part of the brain. When it enters the bloodstream it stimulates the liver to secrete yet another hormone, 'insulin-like growth factor' (primarily IGF-1).

The elderly naturally produce less HGH than young adults.

What causes?

There are several possible mechanisms that result in a deficiency:

  • insufficient release of stimulatory hormone from the hypothalamus.
  • insufficient production of HGH by the pituitary..
  • decrease in IGF-1 hormones.
  • problems can also be caused by defects in the receptors that 'receive' the hormone in the body's cells.

There are many possible causes for an HGH deficiency including:

  • very rarely it may be due to a genetic defect, which in some instances may also be hereditary.
  • a lack of oxygen at birth.
  • diseases in the pituitary gland, the brain or the liver.
  • abnormalities in the hormone receptors.
  • an autoimmune attack.

However, more often than not, there is no single, clear explanation.

If the pituitary gland function is abnormal, the production of several other types of pituitary hormone may also be reduced, leading to other conditions.

What are the symptoms?

A total deficiency is often discovered in a child's infancy. At birth, the infant's height and weight are normal. However, between three to nine months the growth rate will be reduced (growth disturbance). Later, the ability to gain weight begins to diminish; teeth development is delayed and the child may also acquire a thick layer of fat under the skin. This symptom will not always be visible if the deficiency is only partial.

What can I do?

Everybody can measure and weigh their kids. However, health visitors and doctors should regularly carry out a growth examination that follows specific guidelines, since measurements completed at home may be inaccurate and the interpretation of 'growth curves' - tables used to measure growth accurately - can also be difficult. If the child's growth seems to be causing problems, consult your General Practitioner.

How is a disturbance diagnosed?

The doctor measures and weighs the child and draws growth curves. The parents' height and weight as adults, at puberty and as infants will be taken into consideration. The doctor will also ask questions about diet, appetite, exercise habits, pattern of defecation and any social problems. He or she is then examined for signs of disease, and, possibly, puberty and tooth development. In addition, an X-ray of the left hand and wrist may be taken to examine bone development. The so-called 'bone age' may be small in relation to age.

If the doctor suspects a deficiency, a consultation at a specialist pediatric unit may be advised. In the pediatric unit, the IGF-1 is measured and further blood tests are taken to test for other possible diseases. A growth hormone-stimulation test will be administered: usually, it takes two of these tests to properly diagnose a deficiency.

What are the future prospects?

Height will be severely impaired if an HGH deficiency is not treated. The child's potential to gain height depends on the degree of the condition. If the lack of hormone is treated in its early phase, it is likely that the child will gain several extra centimeters bringing the child into the normal range for height.

How is the imbalance treated?

Treatment, available at special pediatric units, is by means of an injection each day until they stop growing. The parents are trained to administer the injection. The correct amount has to be determined exactly, and the child needs to be closely monitored and examined for possible side effects, even though side effects are very rare. When this treatment has been completed, a reassessment is necessary to see if the child is likely to respond to further treatment in adulthood.

Which medicine is used for treatment?

Synthetic HGH (somatropin) manufactured in a pharmaceutical lab is used for the treatment. It's all made this way as procuring it from human cadavers has been outlawed for many years.


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