The pituitary growth hormone is activated by the hypothalamus in the brain. When the pituitary gland receives a message from the hypothalamus, it releases the growth hormones the body needs to grow bones, tissue, cell production and regeneration. This hormone is also referred to as the somatotropin or somatropin. It is a peptide hormone which means that it is secreted into the blood stream and has endocrine functions.
When we are at rest the pituitary gland releases a growth hormone during slow-wave sleep, which is also referred to as Stage 3 or 4 in the stages of sleep that most people experience if they are able to sleep all night without too many interruptions.
The pituitary gland growth hormone important for normal human growth
When the pituitary fails to produce adequate amounts of GH, the result is referred to as hormone deficiency. Hormone deficiency can occur in childhood during the growing years or later in adulthood. When this occurs in the childhood years a doctor may notice it when they observe the growth charts used to measure a child’s growth progress. Adults may ask for testing if they suspect they have GH deficiency issues.
How are children affected by hormone deficiency?
When children suffer from a growth hormone deficiency the result is growth failure, short stature, or delayed sexual maturity. Growth failure may be evident at birth if the baby is born small even though it was born full-term. Some children may be later diagnosed with syndromes and medical conditions related to their failure to grow taller:
- Turner Syndrome: Female children fail to develop sexual characteristics and tend to be smaller.
- Prader-Willi Syndrome: Results in poor muscle tone, low level of sex hormones, and a constant feeling of hunger.
- Chronic Kidney failure
- HGH deficiency
How are adults affected?
Adults who experience hormone deficiency as children may have continuing medical issues. In many adult cases of hormone deficiency, the adult develops a pituitary tumor. The adults who are diagnose with GH deficiency tend to have increased fat mass, low muscle mass, decreased energy levels, and a low quality of life.
Approved Hormone Replacement Therapy
Children and adults may receive GH replacement therapy to help with the above mentioned physical conditions. Although as with virtually any drug, there may be some side effects the treatment has been approved by the FDA because the benefits outweigh possible negative effects. Common side effects include:
- Injection site skin reaction
- Although rare, some patients may suffer joint swelling and pain
- Carpet tunnel syndrome
The benefits for adults include reduced fat mass, increased lean mass, better bone density, reduced risk factors for cardiac conditions, and best of all a better sense of well-being.
If you were born with the hallmarks of GH deficiency or your child’s doctor notices that your child is not growing at the proper rate for her age and expected height, you and the doctor should discuss treatments that may help resolve the problem that may start in the brain in that small gland called the pituitary gland. Replacement therapy might be able to kick-start yours or your child’s pituitary gland hormone.