Growth hormone therapy has come a long way. Scientist began hormone therapy using crude extracts from humans about 40 years ago, but currently, doctors are using commercially manufactured recombinant growth hormone therapy (rhGH).
Doctors have achieved a lot of success, particularly in the treatment of stunted children. Since the introduction of rhGH in the US back in 1985, doctors have successfully treated maladies such as Cretzfeld Jakob disease, a condition previously linked to crude pituitary extracts.
That said, there has been a lot of concern and researchers believe it would be beneficial to carry out further tests to find out growth hormone side effects in children, particularly in non-growth hormone deficient kids.
Classical Growth Hormone Deficiency
Deficiency relating to growth hormones includes a series of pathologies, most of which are caused by the failure of exudation or reduction in the volume of Growth hormone secreted. Deficiency may occur on its own or in combination with pituitary deficiencies. It can also be familial or sporadic in nature.
In addition, deficiency can be acquired or congenital. Thus, pathology is caused by abnormalities in a child’s pituitary growth hormone-producing cells or other secretory sites such as the hypothalamus.
Despite the presence of numerous causes, most of the deficiency experienced by children are idiopathic.
Signs of Deficiency
Most children with growth hormone deficiency have average body features and proportions. However, with closer examination, there are certain indicators of deficiency such as short height, delayed bone development, micro-penis, sparse or thin hair, and poor height.
Also, there are auxological indicators suggestive of deficiency, such as like moderate growth delay, severe growth deceleration, and retardation. Some children show neonatal presentation like unusual hypoglycemia and lengthy hyperbilirubinemia.
What are the Effects?
Timely treatment of growth hormone deficiency using subcutaneous deliver with a proper dose of growth hormone, in many cases, leads to normalization of growth and a child is bound to achieve the right height.
Thus, the important thing is to ensure that a prognosis is done early enough. If treatment is done within the first few years, a child will attain normalized height, allowing a child to attain the highest growth potential. Children who undergo growth hormone therapy develop lean mass due to a reduction in excess body fat.
Side Effects of Treatment
Growth hormone treatment using rhGH has a number of complications. Non-growth hormone deficient children are not at risk of developing CJD, as is the case when crude pituitary extracts are used.
However, that is not to mean that there are no growth hormone side effects in children at all. In some cases, children experience salt and water retention, benign intracranial hypertension and acute pancreatitis.
Other growth hormone side effects in children include disorders such as slipped capital femoral epiphysis tend to occur later in adolescents. Some children may also develop hyperthyroidism due to a persistent or transient decrease in serum thyroxine.
For that reason, your doctor will monitor thyroid function in your child in order to find out whether there is a poor response to the growth hormone therapy.
Researchers are also concerned that growth hormone therapy can lead to terminal conditions such as cancer, especially when it is administered in elevated doses over an extended period. There is a 12 to 35 percent chance of an increase in pre-cancerous polyps within the colon in children suffering from acromegaly.
About 6.9 percent of the cases develop colon cancer. However, it’s believed that children who suffer from acromegaly may have had a higher dose of growth hormone for a long time compared to quantities injected during GH therapy.
Some studies have reported other adverse growth hormone side effects in children such as leukemia, especially those who received pituitary growth hormone replacement therapy. There are other risks as well such as death resulting from Hodgkin’s disease and cancer in general in patients who have had GH therapy.
Recombinant human growth hormone therapy is applicable in a number of other conditions other than growth hormone deficiency. Consequently, there is a lot of debate surrounding this kind of widespread application of rhGH and its justification particularly in cases where extensive studies have not been done.
The arising dilemma on such widespread use of rhGH requires extensive consideration to assess cost versus benefit ratios, long term growth hormone side effects in children, potential benefits with regards to increase in height as well as available alternatives. It is not quite clear whether children with stunted growth suffer emotionally or physically, which begs the question is being taller better?
Growth hormones can help kids catch up with others of the same age, especially those with growth disorders. However, if you have kids who need therapy, be aware that there may be growth hormone disorders in children, particularly those undergoing non-deficient growth hormone treatments.