Adults as well as children can be diagnosed with human growth hormone deficiency and the tests and exams to detect GHD (growth hormone deficiency) are the same, irrespective of age. We know you may have a lot of queries when your kid is detected with GHD. The common questions that crop up in one’s mind include is it harmful for my child? Will it have long term effects? What should we do now? And so on.
The doctor will check your child’s height, weight and body proportions. This is mainly crucial in detecting a child with GHD. A child with hormone deficiency does not follow the normal growth chart. Rather, their growth rate is very slow and the child is much shorter in height than other children of same age.
Before knowing how GHD is detected, let’s first understand what it is all about.
What is Growth Hormone Deficiency?
Growth hormone deficiency is a problem that can take various forms from one patient to another. Growth hormone is basically a protein that is produced by the brain’s pituitary gland, attached to the hypothalamus. Hypothalamus is the part of the brain which helps to regulate pituitary gland. So, if the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland gets damaged, it may automatically mean that the gland is not in a state to produce growth hormone any longer.
If the pituitary gland lacks multiple hormones, the condition is known as hypopituitarism.
What is ‘normal’ growth in children?
Growth rate differ significantly from one child to another. It is measured in average growth, height and is described as:
- 0months-1year: 10 inches per year
- 1year-2years: 5 inches per year
- 2years-3years: 3 ½ inches per year
- 3years to puberty: 2-2 ½ inches per year
So if your child is less than third percentile in height for child of his age, it can be a warning for GH deficiency. Apart from knowing complete medical history of your child, it is also important to gather details about height and other health issues of your family and relatives and thus conducting an examination, your doctor may monitor child’s growth over a period of time, draw small amount of blood to see for evidence of any disease, measure IGF-1 levels and insulin like growth factor binding protein 3 levels in the blood, review mother’s pregnancy and delivery and arrange for x ray of the wrist and hand of the child in order to know the bone development.
Tests for determining growth hormone deficiency
- Blood tests to determine the GH level
- Blood tests to measure other hormones level that the pituitary gland produces
- Binding protein level blood tests to see whether growth problem is due to the pituitary gland
- Insulin tolerance test
- Growth hormone stimulation test
- GHRH-arginine test
Other tests to determine GHD
Apart from the above mentioned blood tests, your doctor may also perform some extra tests and exams to diagnose Growth Hormone deficiency. These may include:
- Hand x rays (mainly of the left hand) to see your bones- size and shape of bones change as a person gets old. Your doctor will be able to see any bone abnormalities with the help of this test.
- A dual energy X-ray absorptiometry scan helping in measuring your bone density
- X rays of head can show [problems with bone growth of the skull
- An MRI of brain may also be taken so that your doctor can see hypothalamus and pituitary gland
FAQs about growth hormone deficiency diagnosis
What is growth hormone deficiency?
Growth hormone is basically a protein that is produced by the pituitary gland located near the base of the brain. It is attached to the hypothalamus, the part of the brain which helps in regulating the pituitary gland. When the hypothalamus or pituitary gland is not working in perfect condition or is damaged, it means that the pituitary gland cannot produce human growth hormone. And this is when a person faces deficiency of growth hormone in his or her body.
What is the reason behind this deficiency?
Damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland may be because of abnormal formation that took place before the birth of the child or even during or after the birth. A child’s short stature may be caused by some other syndromes too and growth failure may be because of reduced nutritional intake, gastrointestinal problems, medications and diseases with increased metabolic demand.
Is it possible to cure/treat GH deficiency? If so, how?
Treatment of GHD involves regular intake of growth hormone supplements. For the children, they may receive injections. Treatment generally lasts for a few months to year, although you can start seeing results in as soon as 4 to 5 months of regular usage. The earlier the treatment is started for growth hormone deficiency, the better are the chances that the child will attain normal or near normal height. But obviously results and effects vary from one patient to another.
Will GHD affect the intelligence of my child?
No. Growth hormone deficiency has no effect on your child’s intelligence or cognitive functions.
How safe is the growth hormone deficiency treatment?
While there may be a lot of side effects if you overdose or get addicted to GH products and mainly when growth hormone is used to treat children with no deficiency, a lot of researchers agree that the treatment of GHD is safe as well as effective.
If your doctor detects growth hormone deficiency, he or she may use a stimulant of GH secretion may be through medications or natural supplements and measure the level of growth hormone over time. Also, if GHD is diagnosed, the physician may ask you to get MRI of brain done to check the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus.
After completing all necessary tests and exams, the doctor will be able to give you the right treatment option. So, it is best advised that as soon as you start noticing the signs and symptoms of growth hormone deficiency, consult the doctor.