What is growth hormone deficiency?

Growth hormone deficiency is when the pituitary gland (a small gland in the brain that controls other glands in the body) does not make enough growth hormone. This makes your child grow more slowly.

What are the signs of growth hormone deficiency?

The most common signs of growth hormone deficiency in childhood are short stature (shorter height than usual) and decreased growth (growing slower than usual). Children who have growth hormone deficiency might also have the following signs:

  • Increased body and belly fat
  • Decreased amount of muscle
  • High-pitched voice
  • Delayed bone age (found through an X-ray called a bone age)
  • Low blood sugar (usually in infants and very young children)

What causes growth hormone deficiency?

We often do not know what causes growth hormone deficiency, and every child is different. Some common causes of growth hormone deficiency include:

  • When the pituitary gland doesn’t develop properly before your child is born
  • A mass or tumor that interrupts how the pituitary gland works
  • Radiation to treat a brain tumor or other type of cancer in the brain
  • Inflammation (swelling) of the pituitary gland
  • Genetic diseases that interrupt how the pituitary gland works or develops

Rev. 1/2015. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.