Different hormones are responsible for controlling various body functions and processes. Hormones control processes such as:
- Growth and development
- Sexual function
There are several glands in the body that produce hormones, but the pituitary is considered the master control gland. Not only does it control other glands but it also makes the hormone that triggers growth.
The pituitary gland is located in the brain below the hypothalamus. It secretes hormones in response to chemical messages from the hypothalamus.
The human growth hormone, HGH, helps to influence height, as well as build bones and muscles in the body.
Why use human growth hormone?
The hormone that triggers growth is produced in the pituitary gland.
HGH is essential to growth, especially in children. It controls more than just growth, however, and is involved in many processes in the body. It helps with the processing of protein and increases fat breakdown to help provide the energy needed for tissue growth.
Growth hormone levels can change through the day and physical activity plays a part. Exercise and similar activities can cause the levels to rise naturally. Sleep, stress, and low blood sugar levels also increase growth hormone levels.
Even small changes in HGH levels affect the body. Too little or too much growth hormone can cause significant growth problems. Too little HGH is one of the main causes of short stature and conditions such as dwarfism.
A lack of HGH is usually due to damage to the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus. Mutations in genes can also cause a lack of HGH.
HGH deficiency in children
Children who suffer from a lack of HGH are often a normal size when born. Some children are unable to produce HGH when they are born and remain deficient throughout their life. In some children, a lack of HGH is part of a genetic condition. In many others, the cause of the deficiency is unknown.
The age of 2 or 3 is when growth problems are often noticed. Children may experience slow growth or even none at all. Symptoms of HGH deficiency in children are:
- Looking much younger than other children their age
- A chubby body build
- Impaired hair growth
- Delayed puberty
HGH deficiency in adults
In adults, a lack of HGH is often due to permanent damage to the pituitary gland. The damage could have occurred in childhood or adulthood.
In adults, a lack of HGH can cause a number of different problems including:
- Anxiety and depression
- Increased fat
- Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
- Weak heart
- Weak muscles and bones
- Reduced ability to think
- Other HGH conditions
Growth hormone deficiency can also be a combination of one or more hormone deficiencies. Children may also be suffering from medical conditions that require HGH treatment including:
- Turner's syndrome - women with this condition generally have underdeveloped female sexual characteristics
- Prader-Willi syndrome - a genetic disorder that causes weak muscle tone, feeding difficulties, poor growth, and delayed development
- Noonan syndrome - a genetic disorder that interferes with the proper development of various part of the body
- Chronic kidney disease
The most common treatment in both adults and children is growth hormone therapy using lab-developed HGH injections.
The growth hormone is designed to mimic the behavior of natural HGH in the body. It will be prescribed by a doctor. Doses will be administered several times per week or on a daily basis depending on how severe the deficiency is.
HGH treatments can be self-administered or given by a doctor. Treatments are often given for several years. Patients will see their doctor every month or so to check their condition.
Blood tests will be carried out to see if extra growth hormone is needed and if treatments should be increased, decreased, or stopped. Cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and bone density will also be checked to see if they are healthy.
HGH treatment can help improve general well-being, exercise tolerance, and strength.
Taking growth hormone can affect the body's response to insulin, which controls blood sugar levels. Growth hormone deficiency can also lead to high cholesterol and brittle bones if it is not treated.
Specific treatment for growth hormone deficiency depends on the person and is based on certain factors such as:
- Overall health and medical history
- Extent of the condition
- Tolerance for specific treatment
- Treatment expectations
- Patient's choice
The earlier the lack of HGH is treated in children, the better chance they have to grow to a near-normal adult height. Children can gain as many as 4 inches or more over the first 3 years of treatment. Another 3 inches or more can grow during the next 2 years.
Many adults have to take HGH treatment for the remainder of their life. The goal of growth hormone treatments in adults and children is to restore energy, metabolism, and body shape. It can help to reduce total body fat, especially around the belly.
HGH injections can also help to improve strength and exercise tolerance. Many people experience an increase in general well-being and overall quality of life.
Risks and side effects of human growth hormone injections
Most people handle HGH injection treatments well with few problems. There are some possible side effects, however, including:
- Muscle aches
- Joint discomfort
- Swelling of the hands and feet
Those who experience these symptoms or other problems should talk to their doctor. They can change the dose if necessary to help remedy the symptoms.
Some people should not take HGH injections. They include people who have:
- Serious illness
- Severe breathing problems
- Multiple injuries
Also since growth hormone can affect insulin usage in the body, people with diabetes should watch their blood sugar carefully.
Other treatments may be required depending on the cause of the HGH deficiency. Surgery or radiation may be necessary to treat a tumor in the pituitary. Pituitary hormones may also have to be taken to correct a gland that is not working properly.
Too much human growth hormone
Long-term use of HGH injections can cause a condition called acromegaly because adults cannot grow taller by using the synthetic growth hormone. The high doses only thicken the person's bones instead of lengthening them.
People with acromegaly will experience an overgrowth of bones, particularly in the hands, feet, and face. The skin area can also be affected and may turn thick, coarse, and hairy. The excess HGH levels can also lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
HGH injections have also become popular for nonmedical usage. Body builders and athletes sometimes use them to help them get larger muscles, more energy, and increased stamina. HGH injections are deemed as performance-enhancing drugs and banned in professional sports.
Carpel tunnel syndrome is one of the side effects associated with HGH injections taken by healthy adults.
HGH injections are also advertised as an anti-aging or weight loss treatment. Many people aim to help increase their energy as well as fight the decrease in muscle and bone mass that happens with aging.
The Endocrine Society do not recommend HGH injections for adults or children unless they have a growth hormone deficiency. There is not enough evidence available to prove that HGH injections can make an athlete better or slow down the aging process. Using them for any nonmedical reason is illegal in the United States.
The Mayo Clinic state that HGH injections can have the following side effects in healthy adults:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Swelling in the arms and legs
- Joint and muscle pain
- Enlargement of breast tissue in men
HGH injections are designed for adults or children who have a lack of growth hormone and should only be described by a doctor.
Mental and emotional therapy may be another important part of treatment. People with a lack of growth hormone should try to lead a healthy lifestyle. Both children and adults should focus on getting plenty of sleep, eating a balanced diet, regularly exercising, and following medical advice.