Growth Hormone Therapy

Growth Hormone Therapy

What is growth hormone?

Growth hormone (GH), also called somatotropin, is a naturally-occurring substance that is made by the pituitary gland and then released into the bloodstream. The pituitary gland is a small organ in the brain that makes hormones that affect growth. GH is essential for normal growth and development in children. GH also helps regulate metabolism.

Why is growth hormone therapy used?

GH is most often used to increase the height of children. Your child may be given GH as part of treatment for:

  • Growth hormone deficiency.
  • Turner syndrome.
  • Noonan syndrome.
  • Prader–Willi syndrome.
  • Idiopathic short stature.
  • Being born smaller than normal (small for gestational age, SGA) without catch-up growth.
  • Kidney failure.

What are the side effects of growth hormone therapy?

Possible side effects of growth hormone therapy include:

  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abnormal buildup of bodily fluids (fluid retention).
  • Numbness and tingling of the hands.
  • Reduced ability of the body to process sugar (impaired glucose tolerance).
  • Problems with the skin or tissues in the area where GH is injected (injection site reaction).
  • Breast tissue development in males (gynecomastia).
  • The top of the thigh bone moving out of its place in the hip socket (slipped capital femoral epiphysis).

A severe side effect called intracranial hypertension is rare, but it can occur. Symptoms of this may include severe headache and double vision. These symptoms may represent a serious problem that is an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.).

What do I need to know about growth hormone use?

If your child’s health care provider has prescribed GH:

  • Your child must take daily injections of GH.
  • Have your child take GH only as instructed. Do notchange the dose without first contacting your child’s health care provider.
  • Report any unusual side effects that your child is experiencing as directed by your child’s health care provider.
  • Your child will need to visit his or her health care provider regularly, typically every 3–4 months. This is necessary:
    • To monitor your child’s condition.
    • To test the levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in your child’s blood. The amount of IGF-1 helps determine whether your child’s dosage is correct. This is done with a blood test.
    • To periodically have your child get an X-ray to determine whether his or her bones are growing as much as expected (bone age X-ray).

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