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Growth Hormone Deficiency in Children

Growth Hormone Deficiency in Children Overview

Growth hormone deficiency is a disorder that involves the pituitary gland (a small gland located at the base of the brain), which produces growth hormone and other hormones. When the pituitary gland does not produce enough growth hormone, growth will be slower than normal. Growth hormone is necessary for normal growth and development in children. Growth hormone deficiency can occur at any age.

The child's growth pattern is an important part of determining normal growth. Normally, a child grows about 2 inches per year. A child with growth hormone deficiency usually has a growth pattern of less than 2 inches per year. In many cases, the child grows normally until he or she is about 2 or 3 years old; then, signs of growth delay begin to show. In other cases, the child may experience growth delay earlier or later than this age. Although much smaller, a child with growth hormone deficiency has normal body proportions (the relationship of one body part to another) and tends to look younger than other children of the same age.

Growth Hormone Deficiency Causes in Children

Growth hormone deficiency may be congenital (a condition that is present at birth). The cause of congenital growth hormone deficiency may be associated with an abnormal pituitary gland, or it may be a part of another syndrome. Growth hormone deficiency may also be acquired (a condition that develops after birth). Acquired causes include trauma, infections, radiation to the head, and other diseases (for example, brain tumors). Apparent growth hormone deficiency may occur when the body is unable to respond to growth hormone, known as growth hormone resistance. In this case, there are high levels of growth hormone being made by the pituitary gland and circulating in the blood, which are ineffective. This condition tends to run in families, but it may occur in an individual with no family history. In some cases, no cause can be found.

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Growth Hormone Deficiency »

Many European paintings, particularly those of the Spanish Court, portray people with extremely short stature who may have had growth hormone deficiency (GHD).

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