Symptoms and Signs of What Is Growth Hormone Deficiency?

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 11/8/2021

Doctor's Notes on Growth Hormone Deficiency

Growth hormone (GH) deficiency is a disorder that occurs when the pituitary gland (a small gland located at the base of the brain) does not produce enough growth hormone. If there is not enough growth hormone produced, a child’s growth will be slower than normal. In adults, low or absent growth hormone can also cause emotional symptoms, such as tiredness and lack of motivation. 

Symptoms of growth hormone deficiency in children include short stature, low growth speed for age and pubertal stage, increased amount of fat around the waist, the child may look younger than other children his or her age, delayed tooth development, and delayed onset of puberty. Symptoms of growth hormone deficiency in adults include

  • low energy,
  • decreased strength and exercise tolerance,
  • decreased muscle mass,
  • weight gain (especially around the waist),
  • anxiety,
  • depression,
  • sadness,
  • changes in social behavior, and
  • thin and dry skin.

What Is the Treatment for Growth Hormone Deficiency?

The treatment for growth hormone deficiency involves the replacement of the low levels of growth hormone with daily injections. These injections are prescribed and monitored by a specialist in glandular medicine called an endocrinologist. 

Frequent monitoring for symptoms and testing of hormone levels is necessary. Growth hormone affects the function of insulin in the body and blood glucose levels should be monitored closely. Growth hormone should not be given to adults with active cancer as it could accelerate tumor growth.

Side effects of too much growth hormone can include:

Children with growth hormone deficiency are also treated with daily injections of synthetic growth hormone.  These injections are often done by a parent (after being trained to give injections). Children are treated until the end of puberty when normal growth stops.

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REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.