Growth Hormone

Optimal Result: 0 - 6 ng/mL.

Growth hormone is a hormone that is important for growth and development in children.

Where is growth hormone produces?

Growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland, a small gland located at the base of the brain behind the bridge of the nose. It is normally released into the blood in pulses throughout the day and night with peaks that occur mostly during the night. Because of this, a single measurement of the level of GH in blood is difficult to interpret and not usually clinically useful. The value will be higher if the sample is taken during a pulse and lower if it is taken during a period between pulses.

What are the main functions of growth hormone?

- Growth hormone promotes proper bone growth from birth through puberty.

- In both children and adults, growth hormone helps regulate the rate at which the body a) produces energy from food (metabolism) and b) makes lipids, proteins, and glucose (=sugar).

- In adults, growth hormone plays a role in regulating bone density, muscle mass, and glucose and lipid metabolism. It can also affect heart and kidney function.

- Growth hormone also helps regulate the production of red blood cells and muscle mass.

What does it mean if your Growth Hormone result is too low?

Some children have a growth hormone deficiency at birth (congenital, a condition or trait that exists at birth), but some may develop a deficiency later due, for example, to a brain injury or tumor. These conditions can affect the pituitary gland, causing a decrease in pituitary function, resulting in a lowered production of pituitary hormones (hypopituitarism). Sometimes, the cause of the deficiency is not known, a category referred to as “idiopathic.”

Deficiencies may begin in childhood or develop in adulthood. A deficiency can develop, for example, because of damage to the pituitary gland caused by a head injury, brain tumor, or surgery or radiation treatment. This can result in a decrease in pituitary hormones (hypopituitarism).

What does it mean if your Growth Hormone result is too high?

Too much growth hormone is most often due to a pituitary tumor (usually benign) that produces growth hormone.

Too much growth hormone in children can cause their long bones to continue to grow beyond puberty, resulting in the extremely rare condition, gigantism, with heights of 7 feet or more. Those with excess growth hormone may also have thickening of facial features, general weakness, delayed puberty, and headaches. Pituitary tumors releasing excess growth hormone can cause loss of vision if they grow very large.

Growth hormone in adults:

Excess growth hormone in adults can lead to the rare condition, acromegaly, marked not by bone lengthening but by bone thickening. Although symptoms such as skin thickening, sweating, fatigue, headaches, and joint pain can be subtle at first, increased growth hormone levels can lead to enlarged hands and feet, enlarged facial bones, carpal tunnel syndrome, and abnormally enlarged internal organs.

Excess growth hormone can also cause skin tags and intestinal polyps.

Frequently, the pituitary tumor causing the excess can be surgically removed and/or treated with drugs or radiation. In most cases, this will cause growth hormone and IGF-1 levels to return to normal or near normal levels.

If left untreated, both acromegaly and gigantism can lead to complications such as type 2 diabetes, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, and in general, a decreased lifespan.

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