Growth Hormone Deficiency

By | June 10, 2022

Growth hormone deficiency refers to the insufficient release of the growth hormone called somatotropin. In children and adolescents, somatotropin deficiency primarily causes delayed growth, with growth hormone deficiency ranging from mild to severe cases.

What is growth hormone deficiency?

Growth hormone deficiency, also known as hyposomatotropism, is defined by the insufficient formation of somatotropin. This growth hormone, also known as STH or GH (growth hormone), is produced in the pituitary gland (pituitary gland) and contributes significantly to the growth and development of children and adolescents. For definitions of lesser-trélat syndrome, please visit

A lack of somatotropin thus leads to delayed, slowed growth. Since this hormone also influences the protein and energy balance, muscle formation and fat reduction in the body are limited by the lack of growth hormone, which leads to increased fat deposits, among other things.

Likewise, both the young and the adults affected suffer from low blood sugar levels due to the so-called “insulin-like growth factors” of the missing hormone. However, in growth hormone deficiency, metabolism and growth can be normalized by administering somatotropin.


The causes of growth hormone deficiency, which occurs in around one in 4000 children, are quite varied. Somatotropin deficiency occurs either individually or in connection with other hormone failures, since the pituitary gland produces various hormones. (In this context, a thyroid hormone deficiency or an underactive adrenal cortex increasingly comes to light.)

Heredity can also be a reason for the lack of somatotropin (e.g. through genetic structural changes of the hormone or malformations of the secretory cells) as can acquisition through birth complications, shock syndrome, brain tumors or injuries to the pituitary gland. If the cause of the growth hormone deficiency cannot be clarified, it is referred to as “idiopathic hormone deficiency”.

There is also a type of growth hormone deficiency caused by disruption of the hypothalamus (an area of ​​the midbrain) in which the somatotropin can be produced but not effectively released by the body.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Growth hormone deficiency manifests itself differently in children and adults. In children, a slowdown in general body growth is mainly observed. They only grow less in length, without changing their body proportions.

The most striking features of the affected children are small hands and feet, a round face with a short nose and small chin, and the formation of fat pads on the abdomen. The teeth also develop more slowly. If growth hormone deficiency occurs later in the growth phase, length growth will only stop at that point.

However, apart from the delay in physical development, the children do not experience any other symptoms. Without treatment of the growth hormone deficiency, the young people only reach a maximum height of up to 1.40 centimeters. Hormone therapy is therefore necessary until the end of body growth. Secondary growth hormone deficiency in adults produces very different symptoms.

Various diseases, such as a tumor in the pituitary gland (pituitary gland), can lead to inhibition of the production or secretion of growth hormone. Typical symptoms are a decrease in muscle mass with a simultaneous increase in fat mass, a reduction in bone density (increasing the risk of osteoporosis ), listlessness and a drop in blood sugar levels. Sometimes there is also depression. Treatment of growth hormone deficiency in adults depends on the underlying condition.

Diagnosis & History

The main symptom of growth hormone deficiency is the slow growth of the adolescents, which leads to short stature and usually does not grow taller than about 130 centimeters as adults. Other signs of children suffering from growth hormone deficiency are small hands and feet and a doll-like appearance with poorly developed muscles and very thin skin.

If there is a suspicion of a growth hormone deficiency, different ones come upTesting(e.g. the arginine or insulin tolerance test). Here it is determined whether there is only a lack of somatotropin or whether other hormones are also affected by the underproduction. A proven growth hormone deficiency requires an MRI examination in order to be able to determine a possible defect in the pituitary gland.


Growth hormone deficiency can lead to a number of different symptoms and complications. First and foremost, those affected suffer from impaired growth, with this complaint already appearing at a young age. As a result, many children suffer from bullying or teasing and thus also develop psychological problems or depression.

Short stature and a significant delay in growth occur very frequently. The blood sugar level of the affected person is also relatively low, so that the patients often feel tired and cannot easily participate in everyday life. A very small penis can also occur, which has a negative effect on self-esteem and can possibly lead to an inferiority complex.

The face itself also looks childish, although the patients often suffer from a delayed onset of puberty. In addition, growth hormone deficiency can lead to excessive weight gain. As a rule, the growth hormone deficiency can be combated with the help of substitutes. There are no particular complications.

However, those affected are dependent on taking the medication regularly. If the disease is detected early, many symptoms can be alleviated very well. Growth hormone deficiency does not usually have a negative impact on the patient’s life expectancy.

When should you go to the doctor?

A doctor should always be consulted if there is a growth hormone deficiency. This is the only way to prevent further complications and symptoms, so that a doctor should be consulted at the first signs and symptoms. An early diagnosis of this defect has a very positive effect on the further course and also on the further growth of the child. As a rule, self-healing cannot occur.

A doctor should be consulted for growth hormone deficiency if the child suffers from growth problems. This leads to very slow growth, which in the worst case can stop completely. The growth problems have a very negative effect on the life of those affected and can often lead to mental disorders or depression. A psychologist should also be consulted. A growth hormone deficiency can be diagnosed by a general practitioner, although a pediatrician can also be consulted. The treatment itself is done by taking medication and can relieve the symptoms well.

Treatment & Therapy

Since the somatotropin is not sufficiently available in the case of growth hormone deficiency, the hormone called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), which contributes significantly to cell division in the cartilage layers and the skin, but also to the release of fatty acids, cannot be formed by the organism.

In order to still ensure these functions in the presence of a growth hormone deficiency, a daily dose of somatotropin must be administered to the body. This hormone treatment using genetically engineered somatotropin lasts for years and actually ends after growth is complete.

However, adults who suffer from growth hormone deficiency also need the administration of somatotropin, since the body normally continues to produce it, even if the amount decreases with age.

Studies have shown that the administered somatotropin, which not only promotes growth but also supports the metabolism, has a positive effect on the muscle strength, bone density, circulation and vitality of those affected, which is why further treatment is required even after adolescence in the event of a growth hormone deficiency with somatotropin is effective and useful.

To date, it has not been possible to produce the active ingredient somatotropin in tablet form or as drops in the treatment of growth hormone deficiency.


Prevention of the growth hormone deficiency caused by an undersupply of somatotropin, as well as its general cure, is not yet possible.

However, if the pregnancy is known to be in the breech position, the birth can and should be performed by caesarean section. This reduces the risk of an insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain and thus the risk of growth hormone deficiency.


In most cases, those affected with a growth hormone deficiency have only a few options for direct follow-up care. For this reason, they should ideally consult a doctor at an early stage and initiate treatment so that complications or other symptoms do not arise in the further course. The growth hormone deficiency cannot heal itself, so that treatment by a doctor is always necessary.

Above all, the child’s parents should pay attention to the complaints and symptoms and consult a doctor. In most cases, the disease can be cured by taking various medications. It is always important to ensure that it is taken regularly and that the dosage is correct in order to counteract the symptoms permanently and in the long term. Parents should monitor the correct intake of medication.

If anything is unclear or if there are side effects, it is advisable to contact a doctor first. Furthermore, regular medical checks and examinations should be carried out to monitor the current development of the child. The life expectancy of those affected is usually not reduced or otherwise restricted by this disease. Further aftercare measures are not necessary.

You can do that yourself

In making this diagnosis, it is important to determine what is causing the deficiency. Only then can suitable therapies be initiated to prevent short stature. However, those affected have to undergo the therapy prescribed by the treating physicians regularly – some even for the rest of their lives.

But even if early therapy was able to prevent short stature, those affected often suffer from depression and/or reduced self-esteem. Accompanying psychotherapy sessions should be scheduled here. Children and their families also benefit from self-help groups. The doctors treating you are happy to make contacts here, but the portal www. also provides up-to-date information and the relevant addresses on the Internet.

It is important for those affected to develop a healthy relationship with their body, especially since the growth hormone deficiency can manifest itself in both children and adults through obesity, a poor general condition and the already mentioned tendency to depression. This is where sport, especially team sport, can help. It promotes the metabolism and also gives the patient the opportunity to playfully measure strength. Since the somatotropin administered daily promotes muscle growth, the patient quickly sees success here.

The administration of growth hormones can promote diabetes. Patients are therefore well advised to counteract this tendency with their diet . You should eat a diet rich in vitamins but low in sugar and fat, and avoid fast food and alcohol.

Growth Hormone Deficiency