Growth Hormone Deficiency: How to Know if You Have It?
By Nick Gold
Growth hormone deficiency is a health problem which can appear at birth or later on in life. It can affect adults and kids of all ages and has certain health consequences such as short stature in children, decreased muscle mass, low bone density, etc.
This type of deficiency can be caused by various factors, including trauma, infection, radiation, or it could be genetic.
This article takes a closer look at growth hormone deficiency as a medical condition. Keep reading to find out what influences it, how it can be treated, and what are the consequences when it gets too severe.
What Is the Growth Hormone?
Before learning more about growth hormone deficiency in adults, it’s necessary to understand what a growth hormone is.
A growth hormone is a special type of protein which contains approximately 190 amino acids. This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and it's necessary for the correct function of multiple processes in the body. For example, it's mainly responsible for bone growth, muscular development, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, etc.
When growth hormone is released by the pituitary, it travels through the bloodstream and binds to receptors in specific target cells. The human growth hormone is also responsible for the release of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) by the liver.
Growth Hormone Functions and Effects
Human growth hormone has numerous effects on children and adults alike. Since this hormone is called the "growth hormone," one of its primary function is to stimulate the growth of bones, tendons, cartilages, and ligaments in kids until they become adults.
Its mode of action is a slow and complicated process which involves the secretion of IGF-1 which stimulates chondrocytes. These are cartilage cells which start the growth of bones in children.
The human growth hormone is also involved in the development of muscles in adults. This hormone stimulates myoblasts which are cells directly responsible for muscle growth.
At the same time, growth hormone also has various metabolic effects. For example, it helps metabolizing macronutrients such as protein, fats, and carbohydrates. The administration of growth hormone can also stimulate the secretion of insulin in certain people.
Growth Hormone Synthesis and Control
Growth hormone is secreted by the anterior pituitary somatotrophs and it has various anabolic properties. The somatotropic cells amount for approximately 20% of the pituitary tissue and they can be inhibited by somatostatins which are produced by the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is directly involved in the process of secreting the human growth hormone. For example, it emits the growth hormone-releasing hormone which kickstarts the production of growth hormone. The hypothalamus also secretes somatostatins to suppress this production when necessary. Other organs and tissues are involved in the production of growth hormone such as the liver, the gut, and the gonads.
The human growth hormone is produced mainly at night in short pulses caused by the hypothalamus. This accounts for more than 85% of the total production of HGH. The release of growth hormone can be slightly increased through exercise. At the same time, it can be drastically decreased if the person in question is obese and sedentary.
Ghrelin is also known as the “hunger hormone” and it can increase the production of growth hormone. This is a peptide created in the stomach which gives you the sensation of hunger. Ghrelin can bind to somatotrophs in the pituitary gland to increase the production of growth hormone.
Having high levels of IGF-1 can also determine a reduction in the production of growth hormone. When these levels drop, Growth hormoneproduction is restored to normal parameters. You can measure the levels of IGF-1 in the bloodstream with a simple IGF-1 test.
The Basics of Acquired Growth Hormone Deficiency in Adults
A deficiency in the production of human growth hormone can be a severe health problem.
This deficiency can be acquired through injuries to the hypothalamus, trauma, accidents, surgery, radiation, and more. Those who were treated for cancers in young adulthood using radiation are at a higher risk for developing a deficiency in growth hormone.
Diagnosing Growth Hormone Deficiency
A thorough examination is required to identify patients who are deficient in this hormone because the disease doesn’t have specific symptoms. Growth hormone therapy will be prescribed to those who have a severe deficiency of growth hormone.
Some of the criteria which qualify a patient for growth hormone therapy include a history of damage to the pituitary or hypothalamus, a parasellar mass lesion, etc. The human growth hormone is generated in a pulsatile fashion, so just by doing a simple blood test to measure the levels of this hormone in the bloodstream is not enough.
More investigations are necessary and this includes examinations of the pituitary gland. In some cases, the results can differ from patient to patient and that’s why establishing a correct diagnosis can be difficult. Further testing methods include injecting growth hormone-releasing hormone and arginine to determine if growth hormone is increased in individual patients.
Popular Clinical Features of Growth Hormone Deficiency in Adults
Severe cases of growth hormone deficiency in adults are usually associated with obesity, diabetes, a visible loss of muscle mass, and poor sleep quality. At the same time, these patients have increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as hyperglycemia.
Other clinical features popular with people who have growth hormone deficiency include decreased bone density. In fact, these people are more susceptible to have fractured bones, particularly later in life. A study performed on 40 patients with an average age of 44 years revealed that approximately 30% of them developed fractures in the following six years.
Studies have also shown that people with decreased levels of growth hormone can develop an abnormal cardiac function as well as reduced exercise capacity and oxygen volume in the lungs. This means that the heart doesn’t work as it should and without treatment, growth hormone deficiency in adults can lead to more serious cardiovascular complications.
Benefits of Growth Hormone Replacement Therapy
Growth hormone replacement therapy is a viable option for deficient adults. This type of treatment is administered daily and it’s only prescribed to patients who have a certain and well-documented diagnosis given by the doctor. Patients need to take a GH test and come back for further examinations to determine if he/she really needs therapy or not.
For example, the patient has serious pituitary problems and there are indications which reveal growth hormone deficiency started since childhood. Such a patient is a candidate for growth hormone therapy and the treatment can increase his quality of life.
Although the results are varied, studies show that growth hormone therapy can help deficient patients have more energy when exercising. At the same time, this therapy has been shown to increase lean muscle mass and reduce fatigue.
Safety Considerations for Growth Hormone Therapy
As with any other treatment, growth hormone therapy is not without some risks. Although these can be minimized, each patient can experience different types of mild side effects. In some cases, growth hormone therapy can reveal the fact that the patient might have hypoadrenalism or hypothyroidism. These two conditions can drastically influence the results of growth hormone therapy in patients of all ages.
Some of the side effects commonly associated with this type of treatment include muscle pain, swelling of the soft tissue in the body, sleep apnea, water retention, high glucose and hypertension. Studies show that approximately 30% of the patients will develop such side effects. Some of these secondary effects can appear over 5-10 years.
Studies show that some patients who benefited from growth hormone therapy also had a high chance of developing a second neoplasm. This was more likely to happen for patients who had a childhood-onset growth hormone deficiency. At the same time, experiencing radiation to the neck or head during childhood might increase the chances of experiencing some of these side effects.
Still, checking up with your doctor regularly to monitor your vitals can prevent or minimize side effects when undergoing growth hormone therapy. It’s important to keep your hormone under control during and after growth hormone replacement therapy.
The Effects of Growth Hormone in People Who Are Not Deficient
Some people are wondering if it’s ok to take growth hormone to increase athletic performance or simply to enhance the levels of IGF-1 in the bloodstream.
Studies have been done on people who are not deficient in growth hormone. By doing a GH test, it has been discovered that this hormone has little to no effects on athletic performance, healing of fractures or osteoporosis. Therefore, healthy adults might not need to supplement with growth hormone unless they are deficient and have a well-documented medical history to prove it.
The Effects of Growth Hormone on HIV-Induced Cachexia
Cachexia is a medical condition characterized by a loss of muscle mass, appetite, and excessive fatigue in people who are not actively trying to lose weight. This health issue can be caused by multiple diseases and the most popular ones are cancer and HIV.
Studies have been done on the effects of growth hormone in HIV-positive people who have cachexia. It has been shown that growth hormone therapy can help increase muscle mass while reducing fat.
However, this type of hormone might not be recommended for people who are HIV-positive and also have diabetes since it can worsen glucose control. Administering a growth hormone-releasing hormone every day can reduce visceral and liver fat, improving the quality of life for the patient.
The Effects of Growth Hormone on Athletes
It is illegal for professional athletes to take supplements with growth hormone and participate in multiple types of sports.
However, athletes have been used this hormone in significant quantities in the past. Although there are little to no clinical benefits demonstrated by the administration of growth hormone, some athletes experienced an increased fat-free body mass. This is one of the benefits of taking growth hormone supplements, but athletic performance, endurance, and stamina have not been shown to be positively influenced.
A study performed on 96 athletes who took 2mg of growth hormone per day for eight weeks had similar results. Endurance, power, and muscle strength weren't affected. However, the sprinting performance was increased by a mere 6% and only in male participants.
Another set of studies performed on a total of 303 athletes revealed that strength and exercise performance remained unchanged. These athletes took a high dose of growth hormone, which amounted to approximately 2.5mg daily. Almost half of these athletes developed side effects such as carpal tunnel syndrome, excessive sweating, and even edema.
As a result, we can conclude that supplements with growth hormone are not useful for people who are not deficient in it. This hormone doesn’t increase athletic performance, endurance, strength, or stamina, which is contrary to popular belief. It can cause unwanted side effects, so it’s highly recommended to administer it only to growth hormone deficient patients.
The Effects of Growth Hormone in Aging Patients
Aging is a natural part of life, and it doesn’t come without its fair share of negative aspects. For example, people after 50-60 years start to experience various symptoms such as a predisposition for obesity, low energy levels, decreased muscle mass, and a tendency to store more fat.
Sit has been theorized that growth hormone can be used to revitalize and rejuvenate people of an elderly age, especially seniors who are 60 years old or older.
Studies performed on multiple healthy individuals revealed that a combination of growth hormone and testosterone could be used to increase muscle strength and stamina in seniors. This program basically consists of a mix of growth hormone therapy and testosterone replacement therapy.
Other studies show that increasing the levels of IGF-1 can also slow down the aging process. Measuring the levels of this hormone can be done with a simple IGF-1 test. IGF-1 derives directly from the growth hormone, so by injecting growth hormone, the levels of IGF-1 in the bloodstream should also increase.
Administering small doses of growth hormone in seniors might also enhance insulin sensitivity and offer protection against chronic illnesses which are specific to people of elderly age. Certain studies revealed that growth hormone therapy could add approximately ten years of life to some senior patients, so the benefits of this treatment cannot be ignored.
However, there were also cases when excessive amounts of growth hormone administered to seniors can result in health complications. It has been discovered that too much growth hormone in the bloodstream can create a suitable environment for the development of colon polyps. Left untreated, these polyps can lead to fatal colon cancer.
At the same time, excessive doses of growth hormone can also lead to the proliferation of breast cancer in certain patients. Experts suggest that growth hormone therapy should only be administered to deficient seniors who have well-documented cases of pituitary damage or hypothalamus injuries. A growth hormone therapy prescribed to healthy seniors can be detrimental to their health in the long run if not properly monitored.
Before administering growth hormone replacement therapy, a whole suite of tests and examinations should be performed on the patient. These tests should determine if the person in question has a pituitary problem or well-documented issues with the hypothalamus. If the patient had been deficient in growth hormone since childhood should also be taken into consideration.
These tests are necessary to distinguish a patient who is deficient in growth hormone or if he has low levels due to aging.
Determine Your Levels of Growth Hormone and IGF-1 Using Simple Blood Tests!
It has never been easier than now to test how much growth hormone your body is producing or what are your real levels of IGF-1 in the bloodstream.
You can do that simply and efficiently using direct-to-consumer blood tests. Visit DiscountedLabs.com and order an affordable growth hormone test for you or one of your family members.
The procedure is simple - you order your GH test; download a lab request form to visit a nearby lab to draw blood, and you get your results by mail in a few business days. The whole process is quick, safe, and confidential. When you get your results, you can compare them against reference values or ask your healthcare provider to help you interpret them.
Here are three popular tests you can order from DiscountedLabs today that are related to growth hormone.
Growth hormone test provides a primary method to test growth hormone in the bloodstream. This hormone is released in a pulsatile and episodic fashion, having a half-life of approximately 25 minutes.
The test should be performed on fasting individuals who were at rest for at least 30 minutes before drawing blood. Growth hormone blood test should be used in conjunction with other types of tests to determine if the individual has a deficiency or not.
IGF-1 is essential for a wide array of metabolic processes, as described earlier in this article. It’s also directly involved in muscle growth in adults. IGF-1 binds to a series of proteins, mainly to IGFBP-3. It binds to these proteins to safely circulate through the bloodstream.
The iGFBP-3 protein helps to extend the half-life of growth hormone, and it must be available in correct levels in the bloodstream. This test measures the amount of IGFBP-3 in the blood. Patients should stop biotin supplementation 72 hours before doing the test.
The IGF-1 test is used to measure the levels of IGF-1 in the bloodstream. IGF-1 acts as a biomarker for the amount of growth hormone in the body. Use this test to determine the levels of IGF-1 in the body and find out if growth hormone is produced in sufficient quantities.
These three tests give you a broader understanding of the levels of human growth hormone in the bloodstream. They're affordable, easy to do, and can be purchased online.
Go to DiscountedLabs.com for more details!