Growth Disorders Overview
Both children and adults can suffer the effects of not having enough growth hormone (GH) produced by their bodies. Organs called glands produce substances called hormones that affect other parts of the body. Growth hormone deficiency (GHD; not enough growth hormone) can be caused by problems in the pituitary gland in the brain or other conditions. Growth hormone is also called somatotropin.
A child with GHD does not produce enough GH, and growth begins to slow after a while. Without treatment, your child may be very short for his or her age. Your child may deposit more fat in the abdomen and face and have decreased blood sugar levels. Children with GHD may be sad or upset about their height, weight, or other aspects of their life, because of their shortness and body image.
Adults who don’t have enough growth hormone, even those of normal height, can suffer from lack of energy, muscle weakness, emotional distress, and other problems. GH is a powerful hormone that may have an important role in controlling areas of your brain that involve your emotions. You might also feel tired, weak, and not interested in doing things you normally would do.
If a person shows signs of GHD, his or her doctor may take a very detailed medical history, and ask about the height of relatives and family history of sexual maturing. A doctor also may order tests to learn about kidneys, bones, and thyroid gland, and X-rays to check bone size in children. The doctor also will study the pituitary gland for possible damage. This may require blood tests to measure growth hormone and growth factors.
If the problem is GH production in your child, this may be a congenital problem, one that has been there since your child was born. Other conditions can damage the pituitary gland, including a tumor, infection, or radiation treatments for tumors of the head and neck region.
The best doctor for treating GHD is an endocrinologist, whose specialty is glandular conditions. An endocrinologist can treat GHD carefully with hormone replacement, which has proven to be effective.
If diagnosed and treated early, children with GHD are able to grow to a normal, genetically appropriate height, in most cases. Psychological counseling can help children work through other problems that may be related to the condition, such as poor self-esteem or feeling unhappy. Adults with GHD may need both hormone treatment and psychological help to correct body functions and affected moods.
Too Much Growth Hormone
Sometimes a tumor or growth on the pituitary gland causes children to grow taller than they normally would. Preteen girls often are more upset by this fast growth and tall height than boys are.
In the case of overly rapid growth (called “gigantism”), an endocrinologist should examine the patient. The doctor may order blood tests and special X-rays of the pituitary gland.
If your child has excessively rapid growth, a physician should evaluate your child. A qualified pediatric endocrinologist can treat this condition