Growth Hormone Deficiency
As a parent, your child’s health, growth and development are likely top of mind. After all, many parents dream about the people their children will become. Usually, this involves a happy and healthy future. As such, you might monitor your child’s height, weight and more to ensure they are growing at the right speed. At the same time, it is important to note that many children face growth spurts at different times. However, if you are noticing your child’s growth is slow, this could be a sign of growth hormone deficiency. So, let’s dive into this topic a little further. What is growth hormone deficiency? What causes it? What kind of treatment options are available?
What is Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD)?
Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is a rare condition where the body fails to produce enough of the growth hormone (GH). The growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland, a pea-sized organ located at the base of the skull.
GH is necessary for normal bone growth, normal muscle growth and normal body fat distribution. When a deficiency in GH is present, your child might grow much slower than other children of the same age. As a result, they are often shorter than others their own age.
But why does this happen? In many cases, GHD is present at birth. This might happen due to genetic mutations or structural changes within the brain. At the same time, GHD can be acquired due to injury, trauma, brain tumors, infection, or radiation therapy. However, in many cases of GHD, there is no direct cause found.
Generally, if your child is not reaching a certain growth or height requirement for their age, your doctor may conduct some tests to determine if GHD is the cause.
Symptoms of Growth Hormone Deficiency
Some of the most common symptoms of growth hormone deficiency (GHD) include:
- Younger or rounder face than peers.
- Abdominal baby fat.
- Delayed puberty.
- Reduced bone strength.
- Temperature sensitivities.
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering.
- Anxiety and/or depression.
- High fat and cholesterol blood levels.
In particular, children who have this condition from birth may become hypoglycemic, specifically during the newborn stage. They may also exhibit poor nail and hair growth, slow tooth eruption and delayed development of their facial bones.
Luckily, there are treatment options available for GHD that can help your child overcome this hurdle and lead a relatively normal life.
Typically, this involves the use of synthetic growth hormones. However, natural growth hormones can also be used from cadavers.
Usually, these two methods involve the same process. The hormones are injected into the fatty tissue of the body, such as the buttocks, thighs, or arms. This is done daily to help facilitate normal growth and development. These injections do come with some side effects, which may include redness at the site of injection, hip pain, scoliosis, pancreatitis and hip pain.
These injections are often given until your child reaches puberty. This is because as your child grows, they eventually start producing these hormones naturally, especially as they enter adulthood. At the same time, it is important to note that some individuals may be on this type of hormonal therapy for the rest of their lives.
How You Can Help Your Child With GHD
First and foremost, it is important to help your child get a proper diagnosis. Booking an appointment with your doctor can help determine if GHD is playing a role in your child’s delayed development.
Additionally, you should always follow the exact directions for any medication or hormone therapy given. Booking frequent checkups is also a good idea to determine how hormonal therapy is impacting your child and to ensure treatment is going according to your doctor’s plan.
Lastly, you may want to consider counseling for your child. Stunted growth and development can lead to bullying, low self-esteem and more, particularly if large height and weight differences are noticeable between them and their peers. As a result, this can significantly damage your child’s mental health. However, talking to a professional can help them learn healthy ways to cope, as well as foster and encourage healthy self-esteem and understanding.
All in all, most children respond well to hormonal treatment involved with GHD. In particular, an early diagnosis can help kickstart early treatment, which means your child can become better aligned with the growth patterns and developments of other kids their age.
Some things you will want to be aware of as your child grows include the average height of other children their age and how your child compares. If you are noticing slower growth, this is a sign that you should book a doctor’s appointment and get things checked out, even if you are not sure. It’s always better to know it is not GHD than wondering if it is or not, or potentially jeopardizing your child’s health and happiness.