Growth Hormone Deficiency in Children
The Differences Can Be Dramatic
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:
- Present at birth
- Result of a medical condition such as hypothyroidism
- Severe brain injury
- 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:
- Short stature
- Low growth velocity for age (growing very slowly for their age)
- Increased amount of fat around waist and face
- Mild to moderate chubbiness
- Appearing much younger than actual age
- Delayed tooth development
- Slow hair growth
- Lack of endurance
- 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
Examples of Growth Charts of Children with GHD
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
- 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
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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