Target Pituitary

What is Growth Hormone Deficiency?

Growth Hormone (GH) is the pituitary hormone that stimulates body growth, increased height and development during childhood. In adulthood, growth hormone plays a role in maintaining normal body composition, including muscle mass, normal bone strength and optimal quality of life. Virtually every tissue in the body contains receptors for GH. GH deficiency in childhood is complicated by short stature. GH deficiency does not affect height, but it has been shown to adversely affect body composition (by decreasing muscle mass and increasing body fat), bone density and quality of life.


Growth Hormone Deficiency

Target Pituitary

  • What are the symptoms of growth hormone deficiency?

    GH deficiency causes short stature in children. In adults, GH deficiency results in a reduction in muscle mass, an increase in body fat (particularly abdominal fat), a decrease in bone mineral density and increased fatigue. In quality of life surveys, GH-deficient patients score lower than healthy controls of similar age and sex.

  • What are the causes of growth hormone deficiency?

    GH deficiency is most commonly observed in conjunction with other pituitary hormone deficiencies. This usually occurs in patients who have had pituitary tumors, surgery and/or radiation and also occur as a complication of traumatic brain injury. GH levels also decline naturally age and obesity, but it is unclear whether this age- and weight-related decline is pathologic and whether GH therapy is helpful or harmful in such patients. In addition, GH therapy is not FDA-approved for these conditions.

  • Complications of growth hormone deficiency

    GH deficiency in children is complicated by short stature. In adults, GH deficiency is associated with adverse changes in body composition. This can include a reduction in muscle mass and strength, as well as an accumulation of abdominal fat. In addition, patients with GH deficiency may develop osteoporosis (bone loss). Quality of life, including energy, also have been shown in studies to be reduced in adults with GH deficiency.

  • Preparing for your appointment
    Write down questions to ask your doctor.

    You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in endocrine (hormonal) disorders.

    Special Instructions (If available, please bring):

    • Copies of your medical records/discharge summary/physician notes.
    • A copy of your MRI or CT on a CD.
    • A copy of your lab reports.
    • Bring any medications you are taking with you to your appointment.
    • Please make sure your MGH registration is accurate and up-to-date.

    Our clinic assistants will help you update your hospital registration and insurance information.

    Thank you.

  • How is growth hormone deficiency diagnosed?

    GH deficiency is diagnosed with a GH "stimulation test". This is a test that typically takes 3-4 hours and must be done by a staff with expertise in this area. IGF-1 levels are sometimes useful, but only if they are low, as some patients with normal IGF-1 levels will be shown to have GH deficiency on a GH stimulation test. Studies have shown that there is an extremely high likelihood of GH deficiency in patients with 3 or more other pituitary hormone deficiencies. A random GH level is not useful to diagnosis GH deficiency because GH is pulsatile, meaning the levels go up and down rapidly multiple times per day. Therefore, a low random GH level may simply reflect a normal trough between pulses.

  • How is growth hormone deficiency treated?

    GH deficiency is treated wtih GH injections that are self-administered once daily. Longer acting GH preparations are under development, but not are yet available for prescription. The GH dose is titrated based on IGF-1 levels. Side effects can include swelling of the hands and feet, which is usually mild and usually transient and worsening of glucose control. Therefore, patients with diabetes mellitus or pre-diabetes should be monitored closely if prescribed GH, and hemoglobin A1cs (a measure of average blood sugar over 3 months) is monitored in patients receiving GH. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be exacerbated by GH therapy. GH is not prescribed to patients with a history of cancer.

  • What research is being done on growth hormone deficiency.?

    Research into the effects of GH deficiency and treatment with GH in patients with pituitary disease and otherwise healthy obese men and women is underway at the Neuroendocrine and Pituitary Clinical Center. We welcome patient participation in our studies.

NEPTCC Newsletter Articles

NS Home

Growth Hormone Disorders and GH Resources