Growth Hormone Blood Test

Growth Hormone Blood Test

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A single fasting growth hormone (GH) level is of limited value. The secretion of GH is episodic and pulsatile. GH has a half-life of 20 to 25 minutes. Testing for growth hormone deficiency or excess is best done as part of a dynamic test involving specific stimuli (see the online Endocrine Appendices: Growth Hormone Stimulation and Growth Hormone Suppression). Insulin-like growth factor-1 can also be useful in assessing growth hormone status.

Growth hormone (GH), also known as somatotropin or HGH-human growth hormone, is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland, one of the most important glands of our bodies, receives the signal from the hypothalamus to release the GH. Once this happens, the GH flows through the bloodstream targeting different body functions.

Growth Hormone - Everything You Need to Know

Growth hormone (GH), also known as somatotropin or HGH-human growth hormone, is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland, one of the most important glands of our bodies, receives the signal from the hypothalamus to release the GH. Once this happens, the GH flows through the bloodstream targeting different body functions.

The growth hormone is paramount for the development of bones and tissues in the early stages of life. Even though scientists focus their attention on the GH role in the growth process, this hormone also has a vital role in the metabolic process.

The growth hormone is also known as an antagonist for insulin. This means that even though the GH efforts are more dedicated toward the tissues, its effects are dependent on the activity of the liver and other organs/muscles.

The growth hormone can stimulate the synthesis of proteins and contributes to the fat breakdown for energy production, which further helps the tissue grow.

What is the Role of GH in the Human Body?

Growth hormone's role starts from early childhood as a stimulator for bone and tissue enhancement. Bones development depends on the epiphyseal development plates inside bones that the GH stimulates.

Moreover, growth hormone has an essential role in producing and releasing insulin growth proteins, which encourages bones, muscle, and other tissues to develop. In this way, the GH levels get adjusted from the pituitary.

The most important roles of the growth hormone are related to ARN production, protein synthesis, and metabolizing fat deposits.

How does GH Affect Adults and Children?

It is important to remark that growth hormone has a paramount role in the correct development of bones and tissues and their density. This is important for both children and adults as golden years, especially for women, tend to increase the risk for osteoporosis.

Even though the growth hormone masters the growing process, there are also other hormones involved, which in case of abnormalities, should be checked. Out of the most important hormones, we recall TSH, adrenocorticotropic hormone, LH, and FSH, which affect the growing process indirectly.

When Do You Need to Test for HGH?

  • Signs/ symptoms that indicate an excess of the growth hormone (Acromegaly or gigantism)
  • Signs/symptoms that indicate a deficit of the growth hormone (short stature in children, changes in muscle mass, cholesterol levels, and bone resistance in adults)
  • Pathological antecedents related to the pituitary gland (traumatism, surgical interventions, radiations)
  • Signs/ symptoms which suggest pituitary hormonal deficiencies (thyroid modifications, suprarenal gland, gonads)
  • Monitor the treatment results for the patients under treatment with GH
  • It helps in prescribing what treatment is necessary for Acromegaly or gigantism

What Does GH Excess Mean?

High levels of anabolic GH are associated with:

  • Tumors of the pituitary gland
  • Endocrine neoplasms
  • Other tumors
  • A genetic disease called the McCune-Albright syndrome

Most of the time, an excess of the growth hormone is associated with a benign tumor located in the somatotroph cells of the pituitary gland. Lung tumors or pancreatic islets of Langerhans also have, as a result, an increase in the growth hormone. This happens because these tumors produce the peptide called  GHRH, stimulating the somatotrophs.

There are also rare cases when tumors produce GH in tissues that generally do not make and synthesize the hormone. Usually, children rarely develop these kinds of tumors that cause gigantism with acromegaly characteristics.

The typical characteristics of Acromegaly consist in the over-development of different parts of cartilages, muscles, tissues, parts of the body such as feet, hands, and facial features like the nose or the chin and jaw. Organs also increase in size; following skeletal and muscle development, kidneys, heart, liver, or tongue will be enhanced.

Besides the characteristics associated with these disorders, people affected by Acromegaly are prone to develop other serious illnesses like:

  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Arthritis
  • Tumors of the large intestine
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Galactorrhea

What are the Symptoms Associated with an Increased GH?

Symptoms of gigantism for children:

  • Much developed than the other children of the same age
  • Massive head
  • Overly large superior and inferior members
  • Obesity

Symptoms of Acromegaly for adults:

  • Prominent features of the face (nose, lips, tongue)
  • Excessive perspiration, foul body odor
  • Oily skin
  • Women tend to have irregular menstrual cycles
  • Impotence

What Does GH Deficiency Mean?

The growth hormone deficiency is often associated with short stature or disorders such as dwarfism. This deficiency can appear while still being a fetus or as a gene mutation after birth. The GH deficiency happens because the pituitary gland is not working correctly.

Children are more prone than adults to have a GH deficiency, but the sooner a child gets diagnosed, the more chances to be treated entirely. Untreated cases lead to delayed puberty and short heights.

As the growth hormone's role is not limited to heights but also has an essential metabolic function, adults need to maintain an adequate level of the growth hormone in the organism. GH is responsible for converting food into energy which translates into metabolic regulation. Also, it is an important hormone that regulates cholesterol, contributing to the heart's healthy functioning.

What are the Symptoms Associated With GH Deficiency?

During their children's age, kids diagnosed with a GH deficiency are shorter than average, have baby features, a young and round face, or baby fat around the stomach even though their bodies have a uniform constitution.

If children are not born with GHD but develop this as a consequence of a brain injury, the symptoms may be associated with delayed puberty or improper sexual development.

Many kids facing this disorder may experience low self-esteem issues because of their stature or do not mature at the same rate as the other folks. Young ladies may observe a poor development of their breasts, while young men can have thin voices.

As for adults, problems may be associated with frequent fractures due to a low bone density. Also, constant tiredness and sensitivity to high or low temperatures may be part of an adult's symptoms.

Children and adults tend to face psychological issues associated with depression, memory loss, poor concentration, and emotional distress.

GH Testing Types and Procedures

Growth hormone tests are not part of a routine test list. Your healthcare provider will decide if a test should be performed, depending on the previous evaluation. There are cases when the doctor may ask you to follow a specific routine before the GH test, such as:

  • Fast before test
  • Stop intakes of biotin for a certain period
  • Stop medication intake that may interfere with the results

Serum GH test

Serum tests are meant to measure the GH levels in the blood. Even though it is a useful measurement method, it may not be the most accurate one as the GH levels are fluctuating over a day. A healthcare provider will collect the blood sample, the procedure being the same as any other test.

Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1 test) evaluation

IGF test is another essential tool for your doctor in cases of patients suspected of abnormal values of the insulin-like growth factor 1. The test process is no different from the serum test; doctors often request both tests.

Neither of the above tests is enough to settle a diagnosis, but they are essential to determine what other tests are needed further. The advantage of the IGF-1 test over the serum test is the accuracy. While serum test results may give different values depending on the time of the day for collection, IGF-1 values are stable.

Growth hormone suppression test

In cases when the doctor suspects essential modifications of the growth hormone, too much or too little production and release, they may require a suppression or a stimulation GH test.

This requires taking a glucose-based medicine before the test prescribed by your healthcare provider to trigger the GH levels, so the results offer more evidence towards the diagnosis suspected.

Most cases of suppression tests will reduce the GH production levels. These results will be evaluated in comparison with the expected levels. If the results are not conclusive, or the values are too much of the range, they will be repeated at some intervals.

Growth hormone stimulation test

The growth hormone stimulation test is not much different than the suppression test. The procedure is quite the same, a medication is prescribed, and its role is to increase the production of the GH. The results are evaluated compared to expected values and consider other signs/symptoms of the patient.

Order Your GH Test Today

The growth hormone is an important hormone associated with the healthy and natural development of the body and tissues. It has a significant impact on our metabolic processes, keeping critical organs working at their best.

If you notice symptoms in you or your kid associated with the disorders created by the GH, do not hesitate to contact a specialist and take a test to assess the situation and help you start treatment. Do not forget that disorders associated with GH are treatable, and the timing, though, determines the final results.





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