Growth Hormone (GH) is a chemical made by special glands in the body to regulate the growth of bone and other tissues. People who have insufficient growth hormone may benefit from GH supplements. Growth hormone deficiency may be present at birth, or may be the result of a severe brain injury.
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates how growth hormone is made and how it can be legally administered. GH is approved by the FDA to treat certain specific conditions:
• Growth hormone deficiency – Children with this condition may be very small in size and may never grow to a normal adult height unless they receive GH therapy before they finish puberty. GH treatments given after puberty will not help a person grow taller since the bones stop growing at the end of puberty. Adults may continue to receive GH treatments after puberty to help them gain normal amounts of muscle or fat.
• Other conditions that cause short stature – Children who have other medical conditions that cause them to be short, including kidney disease, Turner syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome are eligible for GH treatments.
• Muscle wasting – GH can be prescribed to help counteract muscle wasting caused by illnesses including HIV
• Short bowel syndrome
FDA approved GH is only available by prescription and must be injected to be effective. Shots are often given at home and may be needed as often as once a day. Other forms of GH that are sold as pills which are available without a prescription are not effective because GH loses its ability to function in the body when it is digested in the stomach.
Possible side effects from GH injections include:
• Muscle and joint aches
• Fluid build-up in the tissues
• Swelling in the joints
Synthetic or man-made growth hormone is considered to be safe when used for the conditions approved by the FDA. Growth hormone made from human tissue can result in a fatal brain condition called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is similar to mad cow disease.
If you are concerned that you or someone in your family has a deficiency of growth hormone, talk to your doctor. Early treatment is necessary for children to grow to normal adult size.