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Growth Hormone Deficiency in Children

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The Differences Can Be Dramatic

Most children with growth hormone deficiency grow less than 2 inches per year, but in this case the child on the left is much shorter than a child of the same age

Most children with growth hormone deficiency grow less than 2 inches per year, but in this case the child on the left is much shorter than a child of the same age

What is Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD)?

Growth hormone is what allows a child to grow. Lack of growth hormone can also cause problems with bone strength, muscle development, emotional symptoms such as fatigue, lack of endurance, or motivation. Children with growth hormone deficiency may also have delayed tooth eruption (keep baby teeth much longer than normal) or delayed onset of puberty. Growth hormone deficiency can be caused by several factors such as:

  1. Present at birth
  2. Result of a medical condition such as hypothyroidism
  3. Severe brain injury
  4. Physical problems of face and skull such as cleft lip or cleft palate

Most of the time to cause of growth hormone deficiency is unknown.

Symptoms of growth hormone deficiency in children include:

  1. Short stature
  2. Low growth velocity for age (growing very slowly for their age)
  3. Increased amount of fat around waist and face
  4. Mild to moderate chubbiness
  5. Appearing much younger than actual age
  6. Delayed tooth development
  7. Slow hair growth
  8. Lack of endurance
  9. Delay in onset of puberty (may or may not occur)

A child’s height and weight should be tracked at least annually by a primary care physician. They will enter these numbers on a growth chart. Children with growth hormone deficiency will have a slow or flat rate of growth, or will fall from one percentile to a lower percentile over a period of time. Some kids are so small their numbers do not even fall on the chart. Slow growth may not show up until the child is 2 or 3 years old, however, children between 8-10 years of age are at risk as well. Often (but not always) the child will have normal body proportions.

Twins - Child on Left Has GHD

These twins on the left at age 12. You can see the smaller girl looks much younger than her twin as well as being significantly shorter. After treatment the girls appear much closer to the same age, and are closer to height.

These twins on the left at age 12. You can see the smaller girl looks much younger than her twin as well as being significantly shorter. After treatment the girls appear much closer to the same age, and are closer to height.

Examples of Growth Charts of Children with GHD

This growth chart indicates that the child was at the 75th percentile at 3 years of age and slowly fell to under the 5th percentile by age 9. This occurs very gradually, but is still indicative of a growth hormone issue and should be evaluated.

This growth chart indicates that the child was at the 75th percentile at 3 years of age and slowly fell to under the 5th percentile by age 9. This occurs very gradually, but is still indicative of a growth hormone issue and should be evaluated.

The top green portion of this chart shows a child on the smaller side since he was 2 years of age about the 5th percentile. The weight is indicated on the bottom portion of the chart. By 10 years of age this child was falling below the norms for the

The top green portion of this chart shows a child on the smaller side since he was 2 years of age about the 5th percentile. The weight is indicated on the bottom portion of the chart. By 10 years of age this child was falling below the norms for the

Monitor Your Child's Height

Monitor your child's height, if you have concerns regarding their height talk to your primary care physician. If a concern is noted, they will refer you to a pediatric endocrinologist for further testing. See the next article on treatment of pediatric growth hormone deficiency.

Causes of Growth Hormone Deficiency

In the most basic terms, growth hormone deficiency is caused by a lack of growth hormone. Growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland. Many people never find a cause for their slow growth. This is called idiopathic growth hormone deficiency. Other causes of growth hormone deficiency include:

  • Severe head injury (hitting the head very hard to cause the person to lose consciousness for a period of time)
  • A brain tumor near the pituitary gland or a history of pituitary gland tumors
  • Brain surgery
  • Infection
  • Past chemotherapy or radiation (to head)
  • Poor blood supply to the pituitary gland
  • Hormonal problems especially those that impact the pituitary gland or hypothalamus gland


The Pituitary Gland

Located at the base of the brain, the pituitary gland is protected by a bony structure called the sella turcica of the sphenoid bone.

Located at the base of the brain, the pituitary gland is protected by a bony structure called the sella turcica of the sphenoid bone.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2014 Kari Lane

Comments

Jones on September 29, 2020:

Awesome! My friend Morgan really needed this and it was very helpful for him. Thanks!!!!!!!

Kari Lane (author) from Columbia, MO on February 19, 2016:

This photo came from a physcian's office set of photos and was used with permisison

Tashika on February 16, 2016:

Hello. May I know from where you got the above twin girls' photograph? I'd like to use it in a poster I'm making on GHD, and would like to ask your kind permission to use this.

Thanks.