Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD) Effects in Children and Adults

We talk about Growth Hormone Deficiency or GHD when our body can't produce enough hgh. As you probably know, this affects the normal growth of the body and it has unknown causes.

GHD is only one of the causes of short stature in a very low percentage of men.

Classification of GHD

Growth hormone deficiency vs normal

Gigantism vs normal vs growth hormone deficiency

Although we tend to imagine ghd only as a lack of production of growth hormone, there are a few different variants of this disease.

Did you know that?

Congenital GHD

GH deficiency is present since birth, although babies' weight and length at birth are usually normal. By the way, this confirms that growth hormone is not essential for fetal development.

In the early months, however, episodes of fasting hypoglycemia and slow growth have been noticed.

Muscle mass is often reduced while the subcutaneous fat is usually higher than normal.

"Bone age" is typically very delayed compared to the actual age, and the stature is often particularly affected.

Growth hormone deficiency may be isolated or associated with other defects of the pituitary gland.

Isolated GHD

The gene that triggers hgh is located in chromosome 17. Depending on the type of mutation, people may have be affected by more or less severe gh deficiency. This deficiency may also result from a genetic alteration of the GHRH receptor, which is also known as syndrome of Sindth.

Combined GHD

These are those forms of GDH where the deficiency is associated with one or more pituitary dysfunctions.

Acquired GHD

Acquired GHD happens when the pituitary gland is damaged by tumors (adenomas).

Secretion Dysfunction

This condition should be suspected in those cases when children show big signs of GH deficiency but respond normally to stimulation tests.

Those subjects , while responding normally to an acute test, have a daily production of GH that is lower than their needs.

Those children are most likely going to be subject to growth hormone treatment.


The suspect of GHD in a child should be raised when the child shows normal body proportions and no dysmorphic features, his/her height is below the 3rd percentile and/or the growing speed (evaluated for at least 6 months) is less than 25th percentile and/or prediction of final height is less than 1 standard deviation from what expected, based on his/her genetics.

Once the diagnosis of GHD has been made, it is always appropriate to do an assessment of the pituitary gland (pituitary MRI), to exclude the presence of expansive lesions or tumors (adenomas).


Let's clarify: if someone is short it doesn't mean they have gh deficiency. The symptoms of this disease are different and depend on the genetics of the subjects.

Symptoms are different depending on the age, so we should really distinguish between children and adults.

Growth Hormone Deficiency in Children

It is said that only 1 child on 3,800 presents signs of ghd.

Like I said before, even with severe prenatal growth hormone deficiency there are very little consequences for the fetal growth.

It is also true that prenatal ghd and congenital deficiency can cause problems to the development of sexual organs in newborn boys, but even in this case we can't really tell until after at least a few months of age.

In fact, length growth is not affected immediately. After that, shortness and poor growth (usually around half the velocity or normal kids) are common signs of ghd.

Physical and bone maturation are usually delayed as well as puberty.

Growth Hormone Deficiency

Growth hormone deficiency: the differences in children of same age (Image from

If ghd is present from birth and is untreated, they say that adult heights can be as short as 45-65 inches (122 to 165 cm).

Yeah..well..I am not much taller than 65 inches I said before it depends on your genetics. Are your parents tall or short? Obviously you always have to consider inheritance.

Toddlers with ghd also show delayed muscle development, and even things like walking, running, jumping can be delayed.

Forehead prominence and chubbiness can be signs of ghd.

In Adults

Assuming that you were not born with gh deficiency, it is possible that something changed in your body and now your levels of growth hormone are lower than normal.

If you suspect you suffer from gh deficiency, look for some of these symptoms:

  • Reduced muscle mass and strength, increased body fat (also symptoms of low T)
  • Reduced bone mass (same as above)
  • Baldness in men
  • Reduced energy, memory and concentration
  • Elevated lipids in the blood
  • Low sex drive
  • Sleep problems

As you can see, growth hormone deficiency and low testosterone are strictly related since many of the symptoms are the same.

Therapy Results

Growth hormone therapy usually improves the final height in children with growth hormone deficiency.

However, good results depend on the age of initiation of the therapy. Early intervention is always the key when trying to "fix" our kids, for everything (for example my wife and I have a child that showed symptoms of ODD and fortunately we caught it in time when he was only 8).

Like I said before, growth hormone has to be taken with subcutaneous injections


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2 Responses

  1. Avatar zaher iyaso
    Dear Cristian, Thank you for article, it covers most of the important aspects related GHD. I am suffering from both GHD and Hypothyroid. Please advise what is the best workout to build muscles and burn fat. I am on 75 mcg Thyroixine and 1 iu every other day GH therapy. My IGF1 was 180 and it is 227 after using GH injection. Thank you!
  2. Dear Cristian, Thank you for article, it covers most of the important aspects related GHD.