Growth Hormone Deficiency in Children
Growth Hormone is a protein made by the pituitary gland in the brain that is responsible for growth and development during childhood. If a child is deficient in this protein then they may exhibit short stature, or be shorter than expected for their age or genetics. While there are rare known causes of Growth Hormone Deficiency, most times the cause is unknown. If Growth Hormone Deficiency is severe it may be present from birth and be associated with other pituitary hormone deficiencies such as those controlling the thyroid gland, adrenal glands or kidney/water balance.
Symptoms of Growth Hormone Deficiency
- Slow growth of usually less than 2 inches per year
- May not present until after 2-3 years of age
- May have a slightly round or chubby face
- Delayed puberty
Evaluation and Treatment of Growth Hormone Deficiency
Not all children with short stature are growth hormone deficient, so a careful examination with blood tests and a bone age x-ray need to be done to search for other causes of poor growth. These may include Gastrointestinal conditions, Genetic conditions, Delayed Growth and Puberty, or Familial Short Stature.
If a child has seen a Pediatric Endocrinologist, had a thorough evaluation and there is suspicion for Growth Hormone Deficiency, they may need to have a Growth Hormone Stimulation Test performed to confirm the diagnosis. Many doctors will watch the child’s growth closely over 6-12 months before performing the stimulation test. If this test confirms Growth Hormone Deficiency then an MRI of the brain is scheduled to look at the pituitary gland.
Treatment includes taking Growth Hormone Replacement Therapy, which is administered by an injection 6-7 days/week.
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