You can tell a lot about the overall health condition of your child according to his growth rates and proper mental and physical development. The fact is that there are significant variations in growth rate among children of the same age, depending on the inherited predispositions and environmental conditions. However, it is accepted as a rule that the child being in less than third percent of growth rate compared to the expected values for his age is probably having some underlying illness.
Growth hormone is the protein produced by a pituitary gland and it is in charge of the normal growing process and several metabolic aspects in the body. Growth hormone, if produces in insufficient amounts, will lead to abnormal growth rates. But not every problem with child’s height is caused by a deficiency of growth hormone. Many other health problems, including malnutrition, may manifest with abnormal height and child’s development or delayed puberty.
If it turns out that growth hormone truly is the cause of child’s problems with height, the underlying causes should be looked for somewhere along the hormone axis involving hypothalamus, pituitary gland and peripheral receptors for growth hormone located in many organs.
The causes leading to deficiency of growth hormone production or effects may be congenital (presented at the birth of the child) or acquired during childhood. Some inherited conditions include lack of this hormone. But more frequent causes include brain infections, head injuries, brain tumors, autoimmune diseases, radiation therapy and others.
How does it look like when a child lacks growth hormone?
Detecting deficiency of this hormone is usually serious, responsible and difficult task. The symptoms vary significantly depending on many aspects and the fact that children with normal growth may show big variations in growth rate makes diagnosing even more complex.
Very detailed history of child’s and family’s growth rates should be evaluated at the beginning of the diagnostic process. Many scales and parameters are predicting expected growth values according to child’s age, parents’ height, previous growing point. When the deviation is dramatic, there’s a reason to suspect growth hormone deficiency.
Also, physical presentation and many lab tests will confirm abnormal metabolism of proteins, sugar and bone development. The body of kids lacking growth hormone is usually disproportional and signs of puberty delayed. Deficiency of growth hormone does not affect child’s intelligence and mental development.
How to control or treat growth hormone deficiency?
The treatment begins with determining the primary cause of hormone deficiency. This further leads to applying of various therapies, such as head surgery, antibiotics, radiation therapy. Meanwhile, the deficiency is compensated by hormone replacement therapy. The medications containing artificial growth hormone are administered daily in various doses, depending on the intensity of deficiency.
Hormone replacement therapy may last for several years, until the end of puberty or for a lifetime. If diagnose is correct and the child truly needs hormone supplementation, this hormone replacement therapy will play its role. It is safe, efficient and goes with very few side effects. Also it requires frequent controls, analyzes and constant monitoring of child’s further development.