HGH Deficiency in Children
A person is said to be suffering from human growth hormone (HGH) deficiency when he or she has inadequately low level of the substance in the body. Given the significant importance of this hormone, a problem of insufficiency could result in a myriad of unpleasant changes in the body. Children and adolescents arguably make up the group that needs HGH the most, and deficiency results in serious growth and development issues.
Children HGH Deficiency Overview
Growth hormone deficiency is a clinical disorder. It occurs when the tiny, pea-sized gland called the pituitary gland located at the base of the skull produces insufficient amount of the hormone. The gland is said to secrete eight different hormones, with the most important of these being HGH. Growth hormone deficiency is more common in children than in adults. It results in retardation of growth and development in children.
Under normal circumstances, a child increases in height at a rate of about two inches per year, thanks to the effect of HGH. This, however, is not the case in children with growth hormone deficiency. Children with this issue usually start to manifest abnormal growth pattern from the age of three and such will look younger than their peers. In addition to being shorter than normal, HGH deficient kids may also have an irregular body structure.
Causes of HGH Deficiency in Children
Different factors can be responsible for the problem of growth hormone deficiency in children. It may be congenital or acquired in nature.
Congenital deficiency – Some children are born with growth hormone deficiency, in which case it is described as a congenital disorder. This could be related to conditions such as Turner Syndrome and Prader-Willi Syndrome or to a poorly-developed pituitary gland.
Acquired deficiency – Growth hormone deficiency that is not present from birth is described as acquired GH deficiency. This type may result from brain tumors developed at the spot where the pituitary gland is located or in the hypothalamus region of the brain. Pituitary gland damage resulting from trauma to skull base as well as infections and exposure to radiation are also among the possible causes of acquired HGH deficiency.
It should be noted that there is also another type of GH deficiency which is mostly genetic in nature. This is called “iatrogenic” growth hormone deficiency. This condition is characterized by the body’s inability to respond to HGH, even when the hormone is at the normal level, leading to symptoms of deficiency. Babies born prematurely also have increased risk of suffering from growth hormone deficiency.
What are the Symptoms of HGH Deficiency in Children?
There are certain signs parents may notice in their children that could point to the existence of a growth hormone deficiency problem. These include:
Short stature – The most apparent symptom of GH deficiency in children is height that is shorter than the average among those in the same age group. However, all cases of short stature may not be attributable to growth hormone deficiency.
Reduced bone density and tiredness – One of the uses of growth hormone is to improve bone density. Therefore, it follows that a child with growth hormone deficiency will have reduced bone density, making such prone to fractures and injuries. HGH deficient people have low energy levels, lack stamina and are more sensitive to changes in temperature.
Adipose tissue buildup – Children suffering from growth hormone deficiency may experience accumulation of adipose (fatty) tissues on their face and around the waist. Such children are more likely to look younger, chubby and have rounder faces that their contemporaries. Slow and sparse hair growth, frontal recession and prominent forehead may also be observed.
Delayed puberty – Growth hormone deficiency in children can lead to delay in the onset of puberty among sufferers. Growth and development milestones such as standing, walking, running and jumping may be hampered. There could also be problem with tooth development. Boys having the issue may have smaller penis, while girls may have problem developing breasts. Sometimes, a GH-deficient child may not go through puberty.
Mental issues – Concern over height and weight issues resulting from growth hormone deficiency may lead to psychological problems. Mental symptoms include anxiety, depression, poor memory and lack of concentration.
Diagnosis and Treatment of GH Deficiency in Children
If you observe the symptoms listed in your child and you feel concerned, you will need to discuss your concerns with a pediatrician or an endocrinologist. Questions may be asked about your growth rate as a young person, as you approached puberty. Weight and height of the child will also be plotted on a chart after medical history assessment to see if milestones are being met. Some tests, including kidney and thyroid function tests, karyotyping, IGF-1 test and MRI imaging scan, may be ordered if GHD is suspected.
The options are limited when it comes to dealing with growth hormone deficiency in children. The main treatment options are HGH therapy and surgery.
HGH Therapy – This involves the use of biosynthetic growth hormone also known as Somatropin for supplementing the low HGH levels in the body. The HGH, which is produced using recombinant technology, is delivered into the body through injections. These injections used to be administered intramuscularly until the mid-1980s when it was discovered that they are equally effective when given subcutaneously.
Surgery – Recourse is rarely made to surgical procedures when it comes to treating growth hormone deficiency in children. Surgery may only be considered when an abnormal growth or tumor is tampering with the pituitary gland functions.
GHD in children will not be accompanied by similar symptoms in all cases, so only a medical professional will be able to confirm its existence categorically. Cases diagnosed early have better chances of being completely resolved. A child on HGH replacement therapy can grow about 3-4 inches taller a year and therapy sometimes continues into adolescence for better results.