Symptoms and Signs of Growth Hormone Deficiency FAQs

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 11/15/2021

Doctor's Notes on Growth Hormone Deficiency FAQs

Growth hormone (GH) deficiency 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, growth in children will be slower than normal. In adults, growth hormone is needed to maintain proper body fat, muscle, and bone, and low or absent growth hormone can cause emotional symptoms, such as tiredness and lack of motivation.

Symptoms of growth hormone deficiency in children include

  • slowing growth to les than two inches per year,
  • short stature for the child’s age,
  • increased amount of fat around the waist and in the face,
  • looking younger than other children the same 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, anxiety, depression, and thin and dry skin.

What Is the Treatment for Growth Hormone Deficiency?

The treatment of growth hormone deficiency in children and adults is to replace growth hormone with daily injections of synthetic growth hormone. These treatments are prescribed by an endocrinologist who will monitor the patient’s progress. Injections are commonly done by the patient or the parents (after training in giving injections). Most patients begin to see results a few months after the initiation of treatment. Patients may need life-long treatment for the growth hormone deficiency. Treatments in children are done until the child has reached the end of puberty. 

Side effects of the treatment of growth hormone deficiency are rare but include:

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.

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