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Human Growth Hormone Facts: Deficiency and Treatment for Children

It’s critical that you, as a parent, are educated on the human growth hormone facts before starting treatment with your child. Human growth hormone treatment is prescribed for children who have been diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency, based on a variety of symptoms and tests.

Both human growth hormone treatment, and deficiency in general, can be a confusing area of the medical world. If you’re concerned about a deficiency in your child, or simply want to learn more about how treatment works, get the facts now.

Understanding the Human Growth Hormone in Children

Human growth hormone (HGH) is excreted from the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain, according to the Hormone Health Network. This hormone is essential for children; it  aids in muscle and bone strength and distribution of fat, and also controls sugar and fat levels in the body. The right amount of growth hormone is critical to ensuring normal growth in children.

Children who do not have enough HGH may experience the following symptoms, according to Boston Children’s Hospital:

  • immature appearance, compared to peers
  • a chubby body build
  • a prominent forehead
  • an underdeveloped bridge of the nose

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, speak with your pediatrician, who can help you understand potential causes of these symptoms, which include, but are not exclusive to, growth hormone deficiency. Your pediatrician may also refer you to a pediatric endocrinologist.

Causes of Growth Hormone Deficiency

According to the National Organization of Rare Diseases (NORD), growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is a rare disorder that occurs when there’s not enough growth hormone secreted from the anterior pituitary gland. According to NORD, there are three main causes of GHD in children:

  • It can be present at birth, as the result of genetic mutations or structural defects in the brain (congenital).
  • It can be present later in life, resulting from a severe trauma, infection, tumor growth within the brain or radiation therapy (acquired).
  • It is also possible that there is no diagnosable cause (idiopathic).

NORD explains that GHD in children may be caused by all three: congenital, acquired, or idiopathic and you may know something is wrong because of the following symptoms: “growth retardation, short stature, and maturation delays reflected by the delay of lengthening of the bones of the extremities that is inappropriate to the chronological age of the child.”

This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to speak with your pediatrician if your child’s height is a concern. It could indicate a range of issues, with GHD being one of them. Remember, however, that there are many reasons why your child may be growing slower than normal—it’s not always related to GHD. Learn about the many other potential reasons for your child’s slow growth in our blog post, What Are the Causes of Short Stature?

Before assuming any potential issues, keep in mind the average rate of growth for children, as outlined by Boston Children’s Hospital:

  • 0-12 months: about 10 inches a year
  • 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 there’s a growth hormone deficiency, your child would grow less than two inches each year, according to the Hormone Health Network.

Growth Hormone Therapy Process

Before a child goes through a growth therapy treatment, many tests are done to ensure that the issues with growth are in fact related to GHD. According to the Hormone Health Network, those tests include:

  • Hand x-ray to check for bone growth, also referred to as bone age, where the doctor is assessing growth potential.
  • Blood and other laboratory tests that are used to rule out other potential conditions that affect growth.
  • Specific tests for GHD, including: Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), GH stimulation test and an MRI.

If your child is deemed a candidate for growth hormone therapy, they’ll begin taking daily injections of synthetic growth hormone. According to Hormone Health Network, the injections are given at home, while growth is monitored by a pediatric endocrinologist every 3-6 months.

Children will see the best results if the diagnosis is made early, which could lead to four inches of growth in the first year, though some grow slower or faster. The exact time need for treatment depends on the child; some will need to continue into adolescence and others into adulthood, according to Hormone Health Network.

Healthy Height: Growth Hormone Therapy Alternative

If your child shows signs of slow growth, but is not a candidate for treatment, one alternative is Healthy Height Shake Mix. The nutrition was developed and tested by pediatricians for children ages 3 to 9 who do not meet the criteria for growth hormone therapy and has been clinically proven to improve growth. Learn more about Healthy Height’s clinical study.

Our shake mix can also be used in conjunction with growth hormone therapy to provide nutritional support and promote further growth. Note that Healthy Height Shake Mix has not yet been tested in conjunction with growth hormone therapy.

Our product is free of gluten, corn syrup, growth hormones, and soy. It also provides a robust nutritional profile, helping your child grow while ensuring he or she gets all the nutrition needed to grow and thrive. Get it in chocolate or vanilla and check out our fun and healthy recipes for incorporating Healthy Height Shake Mix into your child’s diet.

Human Growth Hormone: Know the Facts

Before starting human growth hormone treatment with your child, it’s important that you’re well informed on what human growth hormone therapy means and how it works. Visit your pediatrician after doing research so you’re prepared to ask the most important questions.