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Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) in children

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Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) in children is a medical condition characterized by insufficient production or secretion of growth hormone (GH) by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. GH plays a crucial role in a child’s growth and development, so a deficiency can lead to various growth-related issues. Here are key points about growth hormone deficiency in children:

1. Causes of Growth Hormone Deficiency:

  • Idiopathic GHD: In many cases, the cause is unknown, referred to as idiopathic GHD.
  • Congenital GHD: Some children are born with a genetic mutation that impairs GH production.
  • Acquired GHD: This can result from damage to the pituitary gland due to tumors, infections, radiation therapy, or head injuries.
  • Other Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as structural brain abnormalities or genetic syndromes, can lead to GHD.

2. Signs and Symptoms:

  • Delayed Growth: Slower than average growth in terms of height and weight.
  • Short Stature: Children with GHD tend to be shorter than their peers.
  • Slow Growth Rate: Growth is not consistent over time, with periods of minimal growth.
  • Delayed Milestones: Late development of secondary sexual characteristics (puberty) is common.
  • Increased Fat Mass: GHD can result in an increased ratio of fat to muscle.
  • Delayed Bone Age: X-rays may reveal that the child’s bones are younger than their chronological age.

3. Diagnosis:

  • Diagnosis involves clinical evaluation, growth charts, and blood tests to measure GH levels.
  • Additional tests, such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) measurements, may be performed to confirm the deficiency.

4. Treatment:

  • The main treatment for growth hormone deficiency in children is recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) therapy.
  • rhGH is administered via daily injections, usually in the evening, to mimic the body’s natural GH release pattern.
  • The goal of treatment is to promote growth and development, improve height, and help children attain a more typical adult height.

5. Monitoring and Follow-Up:

  • Children receiving GH therapy require regular follow-up with a pediatric endocrinologist to monitor their growth and adjust treatment as needed.
  • Bone age and growth velocity are regularly assessed to track progress.

6. Transition to Adulthood:

  • GH therapy may continue into late adolescence to optimize final adult height.
  • Some individuals with GHD require lifelong GH replacement therapy.

7. Psychological and Social Support:

  • Children with GHD may face psychosocial challenges related to their stature. Support from healthcare providers and psychologists can help address these issues.

8. Potential Complications:

  • If left untreated, GHD can lead to short stature and psychosocial challenges.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment can help children with GHD achieve near-normal adult heights.

It’s important for parents and caregivers to consult with a pediatrician or pediatric endocrinologist if they have concerns about their child’s growth or suspect growth hormone deficiency. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can significantly improve the child’s growth and overall well-being.

The Pediatric.me content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical advice of a physician