Growth hormone replacement therapy is designed to mimic the behavior of the natural growth hormone produced by the pituitary gland in the human body.
Hormones play a part in nearly every major body function, including growth. If the body does not produce enough, a person may need to have growth hormone injections.
Several glands in the body produce hormones, but health experts consider the pituitary to be the master control gland. Not only does it control other glands, but it also makes the hormone that triggers growth.
The pituitary gland is 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. It is crucial for processes involved in normal human growth and development.
Damage to the pituitary gland is a common cause of a deficiency in adults.
In this article, we look at the reasons to use HGH, the function of growth hormone, and possible side effects.
Why use human growth hormone?
HGH is essential to growth, especially in children, but it is also involved in many other processes in the body, including bone density, muscle mass, and mood.
Different hormones control various body functions and processes, including growth and development, metabolism, sexual function and reproduction, and mood.
It helps process protein and increases fat breakdown to help provide the energy needed for tissue growth.
Growth hormone levels can change throughout 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.
HGH in Adults
In adults, a lack of growth hormone is often due to damage to the pituitary gland, which may be permanent. The damage could have occurred in childhood or adulthood.
Other causes include:
- radiation therapy;
- a head injury;
- infections, such as meningitis.
Problems in the pituitary with producing growth hormone are commonly due to a pituitary tumor.
The pituitary can be damaged by the tumor itself or by treatment such as surgery and radiotherapy.
In adults, a lack of HGH can cause a number of different problems including:
- anxiety and depression;
- increased fat around the waist;
- increased risk of heart disease and stroke;
- weak heart;
- weak muscles and bones;
- reduced ability to think;
- other conditions.
Growth hormone deficiency can also be a combination of one or more hormone deficiencies.
Some medical conditions may also benefit HGH treatment.
- 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: This genetic disorder interferes with the proper development of various parts of the body.
- Chronic kidney disease
A person can administer HGH injections at home or receive the hormone at the doctor’s office. The most common treatment in both adults and children is growth hormone therapy using lab-developed HGH injections.
Doses occur several times per week or on a daily basis depending on how severe the deficiency is. Manufacturers designed the growth hormone to mimic the behavior of natural growth hormone in the body. It will be prescribed by a doctor.
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.
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.
Doctors base this treatment on certain factors, such as:
- overall health and medical history;
- the extent of the condition;
- tolerance for specific treatment;
- treatment expectations;
- patient’s choice.
Many adults have to take HGH treatment for the remainder of their life.
Anyone taking HGH will undergo regular monitoring to assess the safety and effectiveness of the hormone.
The goal of growth hormone treatments is to restore energy, metabolism, and enhance body development or shape. It can help to reduce total body fat, especially around the belly.
HGH injections can also help to improve strength and exercise tolerance and reduce the risk of heart disease in those who lack the growth hormone.
Many people experience an increase in overall quality of life.
Risks and side effects
Most people tolerate HGH injection treatments well with few problems.
However, possible side effects include:
- muscle aches;
- joint discomfort;
- swelling of the hands and feet.
Those who experience these symptoms or other problems should talk to a doctor. They can change the dose if necessary to help remedy the symptoms.
HGH injections are not recommended for people who have:
- serious illness;
- severe breathing problems;
- multiple injuries;
- complications from open heart or abdominal surgery.
HGH can affect insulin usage in the body, so people with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar levels 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
If the levels of HGH are too high in adults, they may experience:
- muscle or joint pain;
- fluid retention, leading to swelling;
- carpal tunnel syndrome.
Long-term use of HGH injections can cause a condition called acromegaly.
Adults cannot grow taller by using the synthetic growth hormone. High doses will 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. Excess HGH levels can also lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Other HGH Uses
Athletes sometimes use HGH to build muscle mass and enhance performance, but doing so is not legal in competitive sports in the U.S.
HGH injections have also become popular for nonmedical usage. Bodybuilders and athletes sometimes use them in an effort to get larger muscles, more energy, and increased stamina.
They are considered performance-enhancing drugs and are banned in professional sports.
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 does not recommend HGH injections for adults or children unless they have a growth hormone deficiency.
HGH injections are designed for adults or children who have a lack of growth hormone and should only be prescribed by a doctor.
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