What is Growth hormone?
Growth hormone is a natural protein produced by the pituitary gland; an endocrine gland found in the brain. A child needs growth hormone for growth and body development during childhood.
What is Growth hormone deficiency (GHD)?
Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is one of the causes of short stature. GHD means that the child’s body does not make enough growth hormone.
How GHD affect a child’s height?
Without treatment a child with GHD will usually grow less than 4–5cm (~2 inches) a year. Quite often, the child will grow normally until the age of 2 or 3 and then growth begins to slow down. It’s important to realize that a child may be smaller than average, but will have normal body proportions. In other words, children with GHD tend to seem younger and have more body fat than children of the same age who are growing normally. Children with GHD are generally perfectly healthy in every other aspect.
How is GHD diagnosed?
GHD needs to be tested when other causes of lack of growth have been ruled out. You need to consult an Endocrinologist if your child is not growing normally. A child may have to take a special medicine to stimulate the pituitary gland, which is where growth hormone is produced within the body. In children with GHD, the pituitary gland releases far less growth hormone than normal in response to this stimulation. It is very important to understand that random estimation of single growth hormone value has no role in the diagnosis of GHD.
How GHD is being treated?
Once a child is diagnosed as having GHD, growth hormone injections can help the child catch up with the growth of other children of the same age during early childhood. Continuing the injections helps maintain normal growth later in childhood, with the final aim of achieving an adult height within the normal range. The response to growth hormone treatment varies from one individual to another, but most children who receive treatment over several years will reach a normal or near normal adult height.
How Growth Hormone injections are being given?
Growth hormone injections are normally given once-daily in the evening. At the beginning parents are trained to give these injections if the child is very young. Later on, children can inject themselves when they feel confident enough. Devices are now available that make injecting growth hormone much simpler, more comfortable and less painful.
What is the importance of early treatment?
The earlier the treatment started in a child with GHD; the better the prospects of their eventually reaching normal adult height.
What are the other challenges of children with GHD?
If a child doesn’t grow as fast as other children, this can have an impact on the whole family. Many children who are shorter than their schoolmates may experience emotional problems, bullying and difficulties with daily activities such as sports. For these reasons, it’s important to explain to a child that things will improve once the growth hormone treatment has been working for a while. In the meantime, remember to act towards a child according to the age they actually are, not the age they look.
How long does a child need treatment?
In most cases treatment with growth hormone is needed until the end of puberty till the bones fuses. However, many people will benefit from growth hormone treatment for many years after that; especially those who have severe GHD.