The most common treatment for growth hormone deficiency in both children and adults is growth hormone therapy—injections of growth hormone into the body.
Growth hormone—known as somatotropin—can be injected by the patient or a family member (if it's a child with growth hormone deficiency). This hormone, which is normally produced in the pituitary gland, stimulates growth and cell reproduction in the body.
Your doctor will also monitor your cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, and bone density periodically while you're on growth hormone injections to make sure they're at healthy levels. Taking growth hormone can impact how the body responds to insulin, which controls blood glucose levels. Untreated growth hormone deficiency can lead to high cholesterol and osteoporosis.
There are also special considerations for children. Kids who take growth hormone injections typically grow 4 or more inches over the first year of treatment, and over the next 2 years, they can grow 3 or more inches. However, after that, the rate of growth slowly begins to decrease.
Is Growth Hormone Therapy Safe?
Although growth hormone injections are relatively safe and effective, there are a few side effects. Fortunately, serious side effects are rare. Swelling, numbness, and joint and muscle aches and pains are the most common side effects.
You may experience these side effects if you're getting more growth hormone than you need. If you have these symptoms, talk to your doctor immediately. He or she will adjust the amount of growth hormone you're taking. Once your doctor adjusts your dose, the symptoms should go away on their own.
There are some people who shouldn't take growth hormone injections, such as people who have tumors or cancer. People who are seriously ill, have multiple injuries from a trauma, or severe breathing problems should also not take growth hormone injections.
Other Treatments for Growth Hormone Deficiency
In addition to growth hormone therapy, you may need other treatments for growth hormone deficiency.
For example, being very short can affect a child's self-esteem: Classmates can tease a child to the point of tears. That's why mental and emotional therapy is often an important part of treatment. A mental health counselor or psychologist can talk you through your feelings and teach you how to cope with growth hormone deficiency.
Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and regularly exercising are also important parts of an overall growth hormone deficiency treatment plan. Your doctor can teach you how to incorporate growth hormone injections into a healthy lifestyle.