Adult growth hormone deficiency (AGHD) occurs when there is not enough natural production of this hormone in the body. This is a rare condition that can affect adults in a variety of ways, from memory troubles to increased body fat. Exploring the pathophysiology of this condition will make it easier to understand how a reduction in this hormone affects your overall health. This will also give you valuable insight into what causes GH deficiency and how human growth hormone deficiency in adults is treated.
What is Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency?
The role of growth hormone in adult men and women is primarily to regulate metabolism. it also plays a role in regulating body composition, mental function, bone and muscle growth and the regulation of body fluids. It may also impact the functioning of your heart.
With low HGH levels, several symptoms may occur, such as:
- More body fat, particularly around your waist
- Reduced sexual interest and function
- Feeling like you are isolated
- Less lean body mass
- Reduced bone density, increasing your risk of bone fractures
- Depression and anxiety
- Greater cold and heat sensitivity
- Less stamina and strength, which can make it hard to exercise and tackle daily responsibilities
- Changes in blood cholesterol composition
- Impaired memory and concentration
Adult HGH deficiency tends to cause higher LDL cholesterol in comparison to your HDL cholesterol
What Causes Growth Hormone Deficiency?
AGHD is typically the result of hypothalamus or pituitary gland damage. The damage causes the pituitary gland to not be able to produce adequate amounts of this hormone, causing this adult hormone deficiency. In adults, this damage is most often due to a tumor on either the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland.
If the tumor does not cause damage, the radiation used to treat it could damage either of these organs, resulting in insufficient growth hormone in the body. Other possible causes of damage include stroke, meningitis and other brain infections, head injury and bleeding at the brain’s base.
For some adults, they experience an underactive hypothalamic drive that is persistent. This can result in not enough production of growth hormone.
This is not an inherited disorder. However, there are certain genetic abnormalities that are rare that are inherited and may cause insufficient growth hormone. In most cases, these disorders are something that is found when people are children, but there are some cases where the conditions are not definitively diagnosed until someone is an adult.
How to Diagnose Growth Hormone Deficiency in Adults
It is difficult to directly measure how much growth hormone is circulating in the blood. Because of this, it is not sufficient to just do a blood test since low levels do not automatically mean that someone has AGHD. Instead, the doctor will order a growth hormone stimulation test. This HGH deficiency test will trigger the secretion of this hormone from your pituitary gland.
At certain intervals, your blood is drawn to see how much of the hormone is being stimulated to release. The doctor will make a note of your levels at each interval. When someone has a deficiency in this hormone, the blood draws will reveal either minimal or no rise in their growth hormone levels.
There are different medications that are used to stimulate the release of this hormone. Glucagon and insulin are two commonly used options. If you already have low blood sugar levels, insulin may not be recommended because it can cause severe hypoglycemia. It is the preferred medicine when it is not contraindicated, but it also requires a more intensive approach.
Glucagon is a good alternative when insulin is not a viable option. The test is performed in the same way, where your blood is drawn at certain intervals
Another option is Marcelin, a drug that became FDA approved in 2017. This is an oral medicine. You will take a dose of the medicine and then the doctor will order a blood draw to see what your growth hormone levels are.
No matter which of the medicines are used to perform the test, you will need to fast for a time specified by your doctor. For the blood draws, an IV line is typically inserted so that you do not have to get poked multiple times.
How to Treat Growth Hormone Deficiency in Adults
Once it is determined that you have low levels of this hormone, your doctor will discuss the best growth hormone deficiency treatment with you. HGH injections are the typical course of treatment. The injections are usually administered once a day below the fatty tissue on your body. Most people are able to administer their own injections at home and use their lower abdominal area for the injections.
The syringes and needles that are used are similar to those that a diabetic person uses to administer their insulin. They are small, so there is usually little discomfort as long as you are using the proper injection technique. Your doctor will show you how to properly draw up the growth hormone and inject it prior to you have to administer the medicine by yourself. The levels of growth hormone in your body will determine the dose that you need.
With correct diagnosis of AGHD, your doctor will determine why you have low HGH levels and how to restore them to an optimal level
As you undergo treatment, you will need to be tested according to your doctor’s recommendations to see how you are responding to treatment. This generally involves the same testing you went through to get a diagnosis. How often you need to go in for testing will depend on your level of deficiency and how well the injections are working for you.
With an accurate diagnosis of adult growth hormone deficiency, you can work with your doctor to determine why you have low HGH levels and what is necessary to restore them to an optimal level. It is important that your treatment for adult hormone deficiency is always provided via a medical doctor. This will ensure that you are getting the proper treatment and that everything is being monitored for your safety.