Some children experience slow growth due to factors such as diet, emotional stress, or disease. For a small number of children and adults, their short stature is caused by a medical condition that either slows or stops growth. Norditropin® is used to treat some of these conditions.
What is Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency?
Adults diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) do not produce sufficient growth hormone. Growth hormone is made in the brain by the pituitary gland.
It’s responsible for more than just your height; growth hormone also helps keep your bones, muscles, and metabolism in balance. In children, growth hormone deficiency can result in a lack of growth. But for adults, a lack of growth hormone can affect their bodies in other ways.
What causes it?
About 50,000 adults in the United States have growth hormone deficiency, with about 6,000 new patients diagnosed each year.
Typically, there are two main causes:
Adults may become growth hormone deficient when the pituitary gland or hypothalamus is damaged. This may happen as the result of disease, a head injury, a blocked blood supply, or after surgery or radiation treatment to treat tumors of the glands.
Adults may be diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency as children. Some require treatment throughout life. And while most adults with GHD are diagnosed as children, some don’t find out they have growth hormone deficiency until they reach adulthood.
In up to 80% of adults diagnosed with GHD, growth hormone deficiency is a result of damage to the pituitary gland or hypothalamus, most often caused by benign (non-cancerous) tumors called pituitary adenomas, or from certain treatments of these tumors. Rare causes of adult GHD include diseases such as sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, histiocytosis, and hemochromatosis (iron overload).
What are the signs of Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency?
Most children with growth hormone deficiency have obvious symptoms, such as short stature. But because adults have already reached their full height, the symptoms of adult growth hormone deficiency are different. Growth hormone deficiency can affect the proportion of fat, muscle, and bone in your body, so you may notice the following signs and symptoms:
Increased fat, especially around the waist
Decreased muscle mass
Higher cholesterol, especially LDL (the "bad" cholesterol)
How is Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects the possibility of adult GHD, he or she may refer you to an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in hormone disorders.
In order for the endocrinologist to confirm you have adult GHD, they may order a stimulation test, or "stim" test. During this test, a patient is given a medication that causes the pituitary gland to release larger amounts of growth hormone at once. Several blood samples are taken over a period of time, measuring the amount of growth hormone in the body. Your endocrinologist may need to do more than one stim test to accurately diagnose growth hormone deficiency.
After the diagnosis.
Your endocrinologist may recommend treatment to augment the amount of growth hormone produced by your pituitary gland, and will likely ask for regular follow-up visits to make sure the treatment is working well.
Learn more about what life is like for families whose children are being treated with Norditropin®.