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Growth Hormone Deficiency

A growth hormone deficiency (GHD) occurs when the pituitary gland doesn’t produce enough growth hormone. It more commonly affects children than adults.

The pituitary gland is a small gland about the size of a pea. It’s located at the base of the skull and secretes eight hormones. Some of these hormones control thyroid activity and body temperature.

Growth Hormone Deficiency
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Deficiency Symptoms:

  • Slow growth or absence of growth
  • Short stature (below the fifth percentile compared to other children of the same age and sex)
  • Absent or delayed sexual development during puberty
  • Headaches

Symptoms of other pituitary hormone deficiencies that may co-exist with growth hormone deficiency:

  • Absent or delayed sexual development during puberty
  • Increased urination and amount of urine
  • Excessive thirst
  • Facial abnormalities can be present in a small group of children with GHD, typically caused by pituitary defects.

Diagnosis

A physical exam and measurement of height, weight, arms and leg lengths are the first steps to diagnosis, in addition to thorough medical history. Blood tests to measure the levels of growth hormone in the body as well as the levels of other hormones. Imaging tests including X-rays and MRI of the head may be helpful in narrowing down the underlying disorder causing GHD by revealing abnormalities of the hypothalamus or the pituitary glands. 

Treatment

Some cases of GHD can be treated with the use of synthetic growth hormone under the supervision of a pediatric endocrinologist. If other hormone deficiencies exist, other hormones can be given in addition to synthetic growth hormone.

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