How Growth Hormone Deficiency Can Impact Your Daily Life


Hormones are chemical messengers that play a decisive role in the human body. They circulate in our bloodstream and control various life processes like human growth and development. Human growth hormone (HGH) is released by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. This gland is the key to promoting growth from childhood through adolescence. As a person reaches middle age, the gland reduces the secretion of the hormone, thus slowing growth.

What is Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD)?

While human growth hormone (HGH) is the deciding factor for growth in humans, there are people who develop growth hormone deficiency (GHD). It is a rare condition in which the body fails to make enough growth hormone (GH). 

Adult growth hormone deficiency (AGHD) which is also prevalent is a debilitating condition often resulting in people suffering from tumors, pituitary surgery, radiation of the head, head injury, or hypothalamic-pituitary disease. Treatment of AFGD is necessary and if left untreated it can have various negative impacts on patients. There are various over-the-counter pills. A growth hormone supplement can increase GH production in adults.

How to Diagnose GHD in Children: Symptoms and Tests 

Clinical diagnosis of GHD in children is fairly straightforward. As per research conducted by Dr. Varuna Vyas, Dr. Anil Kumar and Dr. Vandana Jai from the Department of Pediatrics, AIIMS, Jodhpur; and Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Department of Pediatrics, AIIMS, New Delhi, India, the estimated prevalence of GH deficiency in children is 1 in 4,000 to 1 in 10,000. 

While kids are expected to grow as it is normal per age, growth failure can hint at a sign of GHD. Doctors suspect GHD when they notice a drop in height by 2 or more percentiles. Other symptoms may include -

  • Low blood sugar levels in infants and children
  • Very small penis in newborn males
  • Delayed puberty

Before confirming the diagnosis, the pediatrician will also check the child’s past growth records and may also order a few tests like:

  • X-ray of hand and wrists
  • Blood tests to rule out the prevalence of other medical conditions  
  • IGF-1 levels to check insulin-like growth factor and binding protein-3 (IGFB-3)
  • GH stimulation test that stimulates the pituitary gland to release GH

How to Diagnose GHD in Adults: Symptoms and Tests 

Compared to kids, adults require less growth hormone in their bodies. It is vital for proper heart functioning, bone health, the body to process protein, carbohydrates and fat, and better mental health. While symptoms vary from patient to patient, a combination of all the symptoms listed below can indicate growth hormone deficiency in adults.

  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Excessive body fat with extra flab on the waist 
  • Low energy and muscle weakness
  • Swelling in arms and legs (also called edema)
  • Problems with sleep and concentration
  • High LDL and low HDL cholesterol levels
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Type 2 Diabetes

GDH is often confused with other pituitary gland problems. Specialists may conduct other tests to confirm the condition, like:

  • Physical exam
  • Simulation tests to measure GH levels
  • Insulin tolerance
  • Glucagon tolerance
  • Macimorelin stimulation

GHD Treatment Options and Side Effects

Treatment options for GHD or ‘pituitary dwarfism’ involve synthetic growth hormone injections that can be administered at home. The long-term treatment with daily shots often lasts for several years. Patients need to visit the doctor regularly to ensure that the treatment is working. Though uncommon, growth hormone injections can have some side effects like headache, muscle and body pains, and swelling in hands and feet. 

There are patients who are not in favor of hormone-boosting injections and look for an alternative pill. Though dietary supplements claim to boost human growth hormone, studies suggest that they are hardly as effective as injections.

Consult your doctor if you experience rare side effects like severe headaches with vision problems.

Growth Hormone Deficiency Complications

If left untreated, the conditions may continue to progress. Children may stop growing taller or may stay shorter for longer than expected. Despite taking medications, some adults may still stand a risk of serious heart disease and stroke. Some patients may even end up getting bone fractures from minor falls or injuries. Doctors often suggest supplements or food rich in vitamin D and calcium to reduce such risks.

Many people choose to use over-the-counter hGH supplements to boost their energy levels, or to develop muscles. As hGH production slows down with age, some people even use such supplements to slow down the process of aging. Clinically, they are not advisable for all. Only adults above the age of 30, and without any health complications should consider intaking it. It is always advisable to consult your healthcare physician before trying out such pills. Remember, lifestyle choices that include a healthy diet and regular exercise are always better than supplements.

Final Impressions 

Though rare, growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is real. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms, or if you notice your child is not growing properly.

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