Growth Hormone Deficiency

father measuring daughter's height against wall.

Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is a medical condition, most common in children, that occurs when the pituitary gland doesn’t produce enough growth hormone. It is a disorder that affects
about 1 in 7,000 people. Also known as pituitary dwarfism, GHD can be present at birth or developed later in life in both males and females.

Common Attributes & Symptoms

The pituitary gland is a small gland about the size of a pea located at the base of the brain.

When it does not release enough growth hormone, normal growth is hindered and children grow at a slower rate.

Concerned parents may wonder if their child is growing at a normal pace.

While growth rates differ significantly from child to child, average or “normal” growth is often described as:

  • 0-12 months: about 10 inches
  • 1-2 years: about 5 inches a year
  • 2-3 years: about 3 ½ inches a year
  • 3 years to puberty: about 2 to 2 ½ inches a year

If your child is less than the 3 rd  percentile in height (using growth charts from your pediatrician), you may consider an appointment with Dr. Joshua Smith, our pediatric endocrinologist.

Along with slow growth, other symptoms may include:

  • Younger looking and round faces
  • Weight gain on the abdomen more than other places
  • Reduced bone strength (frequent bone fractures)
  • Slow tooth eruption
  • Fine hair & poor nail growth
  • Delayed puberty
  • Low self-esteem or depression
  • Lack of stamina

*It is important to note that it has been well established that growth hormone deficiency has no effect on a child’s intelligence.

Because symptoms will vary from child to child and may resemble other conditions, an appointment with Dr. Joshua Smith will be helpful. With his board certification in pediatric endocrinology, he can appropriately test for growth hormone deficiency and provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Types of GHD

When GHD is present at birth, it is known as congenital GHD. When the condition occurs later in life, it is knows as acquired GHD. Acquired GHD may be the result of trauma, infection, radiation therapy or a tumor growth in the brain. A third category, called idiopathic GDH, has no known or diagnosable cause.

Congenital GHD

  • Present at birth

Acquired GHD

  • Occurs later in life

Idiopathic GDH

  • No known or diagnosable cause

Diagnosis and Treatment

Dr Josh measuring the height of a young girl.If your child seems to be short in stature or showing symptoms of growth hormone deficiency, you will be relieved to know that GHD is treatable! Children who are diagnosed early typically recover very well. However, if the condition is left untreated, it can result in permanent shorter-than-average height.

By taking a thorough patient health history, performing a physical exam and laboratory tests, Dr. Joshua Smith will look for indicators of GHD and other conditions. If he suspects a tumor or other damage to the pituitary gland, other tests may be ordered like an MRI imaging scan.

This testing will help him isolate the condition and provide an appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment for GHD includes the replacement of growth hormone. Growth hormone replacement is most effective when given in daily growth hormone injections. The treatment is typically given until the child completes puberty; however, some people require treatment throughout their lives.

Pediatric Endocrinology Specialist

If your child is experiencing GHD symptoms, call Dr. Joshua Smith or fill out the form below to request an appointment.  Dr. Smith is theregion’s only specialist in pediatric endocrinology and is specifically trained to properly diagnose and treat Growth Hormone Deficiency.

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