Growth hormone deficiency is a complex health problem that occurs in different forms in different patients. The hormones responsible for growth are produced by the pituitary gland, which is located in the lower part of the brain.
At times, the pituitary gland is also referred to as the master gland of the endocrine system. This gland is attached to the hypothalamus and when damaged or malfunctioning, it prevents the production of the growth hormone. Lack of multiple pituitary hormones leads to a condition called hypopituitarism, which may require the attention of a medical specialist.
Hormone deficiency affects both children and adults and may result from numerous factors in the brain. Here is a breakdown of the causes, effects, and how to treat growth hormone deficiency.
Causes of Growth Hormone Deficiency
Serious traumatic brain injuries (TBI) resulting from road accidents, multiple falls, or a shattering of the skull are major causes of growth hormone deficiency. Another cause is intracranial hematoma and it is triggered by the fracture or ruptures of the bone in the middle meningeal artery, which may lead to death.
Other associated diseases such as meningitis and cancer may also lead to encephalitis. This is an inflammation of the protective membrane of the grey matter that may slow the body functioning and, in turn, cause growth hormone deficiency.
Gray matter tumors, radiation treatments of the brain, and poor blood supply in the pituitary gland (also referred to as hypopituitarism) are possible reasons why patients end up with this health condition. If growth hormone deficiency occurs later and life and is not present at birth, it is referred to as acquired growth hormone deficiency (AGHD).
Symptoms of Growth Hormone Deficiency
Growth hormone deficiency symptoms may vary depending on the causes of the condition. Traumatic brain injuries may result in a patient experiencing over-bleeding in the gray matter or experiencing a failure of the master gland of the endocrine system.
Additionally, a patient may have constant headaches, nausea, fluid draining from the ear, fatigue, and dizziness due to the dysfunctions of the pituitary gland. Infections may also cause a patient to experience fever, irritation, vomiting, and change in personal behavior. They may experience a weakening of the bones, which could be evidenced through more frequent breaks and fractures. There may also be a sensitivity to hot or cold as well as chronic fatigue.
Preparation for Growth Hormone Test
When preparing for a growth hormone test, the patient must not eat for 10 to 12 hours before the test, as eating may alter the result. Ordinarily, patients on other medications are required to inquire with the medical expert before the test to know whether the medicine would affect the results.
How the Test is Done
A physical examination of weight, body proportion and height will be the first evaluation done by a medical practitioner. Afterwards, an X-ray may be taken to determine the shape and size of the bones, although this may vary from person to person depending on age.
An MRI of the head can be incorporated to see the functionalities of the pituitary gland as well as the hypothalamus. To determine the levels of other hormones through stimulation, a blood test may also be done. This is done through an intravenous (IV) line and may take 2 to 5 hours.
The IV is first placed in the vein and a sample of blood drawn. Medicine is then given through the vein to stimulate the pituitary gland to release growth hormones. The blood samples are then drawn over the following few hours and tested.
Results to Expect
Results may vary depending on the laboratory and the number of different samples taken. A normal result may read as follows:
Normal peak should be at least 10ng/mL, indeterminate level 5 to 10ng/mL, and subnormal level 5ng/mL
It’s crucial to ask your doctor to explain the meaning of the results to help you have a thorough understanding of your situation.
Hormone Deficiency Treatment
Treatment of congenital growth hormone deficiency may vary depending on the outcome of the results. In most instances, the treatment is done by regular injections. This is a long treatment process and may even last several years.
Patients usually receive an injection once a day, which can be administered at home. Similarly, growth hormone therapy may also be incorporated as a method of treatment to help stimulate muscle and bone growth.
However, therapy treatment may not be effective for all patients. It’s also important to note that not everyone responds well to growth hormone deficiency treatment. However, for many who undergo the treatment, the results may start to be visible as early as three to four months.
If a patient experiences adverse side effects to the injections, the doctor will likely change the dosage. The side effects may include fluid retention, slippage of the hip bone, headache, and muscle and joint aches. However, these are rare and only occur in isolated cases.
How to Prevent Growth Hormone Deficiency
Protecting head injuries goes a long way in ensuring that the pituitary gland is not damaged. You can also take precautionary measures by ensuring you buckle up while traveling by car. Bikers are also advised to always wear their helmets. Any injury to the head could cause lasting damage, including growth hormone deficiency. Taking the right precautions can help prevent this from gaining a foothold in your life. However, genetic causes for growth hormone deficiency are difficult to prevent.