What is Growth Hormone Deficiency?

Growth hormone deficiency (GHD, or AGHD when applied to adults) is a medical condition that results from a lack of the naturally occurring HGH (human growth hormone) that is created by the back portion of the pituitary gland. HGH is necessary for the normal development and growth of bones and muscles.

GHD can occur at any age and has different effects at different ages. In young children, it can often lead to being short-statured. In adults, it can lead to problems in muscle tone or mass, bone mineralization, anti-ageing requirements, calcium preservation, protein preservation, cell reproduction and increasing immune functions.

The causes of GHD–

The lack of a sufficient amount of HGH from the production of the anterior pituitary gland can be the result of a number of causes.

It could be hereditary or genetic, and present at birth. Some diseases, such as Turner syndrome or Prader-Willi syndrome, may result in the newborn having an abnormal or irregular pituitary gland, leading to GHD. GHD may be the sole deficiency in such cases, or it could be one of several side-effects of a deficiency in the pituitary hormones.

Perhaps similar to or present in the above are gene mutations, which can be other causes of GHD. However, gene mutations can occur at any age. A study by the University of Minnesota showed that inhaling tobacco smoke can cause genetic damage in as little as 15 minutes. Inhaling tobacco smoke applies to second-hand smokers as well.

Elaborating further, GHD can be acquired. It can be acquired as a result of brain tumors, infections, radiation, surgery, and trauma or injury.

The pituitary can be damaged as a result of radiation therapy to the head, intracranial diseases or brain tumor, surgery, leukemia, trauma or other noteworthy event.

There can also be unknown causes, referred to as idiopathic causes.

Diagnosing and treating GHD

It is essential that you do not self-diagnose or rely on “Dr. Google”. A proper diagnosis can come from only an endocrinologist, and medical doctor who specializes in the study and treatment of the endocrine glands, such as the pituitary.

A test called the growth hormone stimulation test is done. If tested positive for GHD then other tests like a CT scan or MRI may be done to look for potential tumors, and a bone density scan to be done to determine the actual ratio or density of the bone.

As stated above, GHD can have different effects at different ages. Thus, there are also different treatments or procedures involved at different ages. However, in all cases, the biosynthetic HGH (also called Somatropin) therapy treatment is injected into the muscle, from which the HGH flows into the bloodstream.

For children, the HGH is injected daily, and the progress is measured, analyzed and adjusted every three to six months. The therapy is generally continued until the termination of puberty or at maturity. However, in extremely deficient cases, it may be necessary to continue it for the rest of that person’s life.

Counter-intuitively, (as they are larger), adults are given this in much smaller amounts than that given to children. Adults are injected only once per week, and at an amount that is only a fourth of that given to the child.

Symptoms of GHD

Again, GHD produces different effects at different ages. For children, the most common side effects are that of having a short stature, delayed development of the teeth, delayed puberty, slower muscular development with a concomitant delay in the ability to stand, walk, run and jump, and mild to moderate chubbiness, especially around the waist.

For adults, these could be increased weariness, exhaustion and lack of energy, reduced muscle mass, reduced endurance, reduced bone density, often resulting in osteoporosis, and emotional instability as exhibited by anxiety, poor concentration and loss of memory.

If you do have any of these symptoms then it is important to see a medical doctor to get the proper tests done.