What is Growth Hormone Therapy?
In the past, growth hormone was used to increase the height of children with growth hormone deficiency. However, in recent years growth hormone has been approved for several other conditions.
Growth hormone is used in conditions such as:
- Growth hormone deficiency
- Turner syndrome
- Idiopathic short stature
- Noonan syndrome
- Prader Willi syndrome
- Children who are small for gestational age and did not undergo "catch-up" growth
Growth hormone will increase how fast your child is growing. This increase helps children reach a height a little taller than if they did not take growth hormone. Each child will respond differently.
Your child will grow faster during the first year of therapy. This growth may be two to three times faster than before therapy. This is called "catch-up" growth. The "catch-up" growth will eventually slow down. Growth hormone also has positive effects on lean body mass by changing fat metabolism. It helps strengthen bones and also helps improve cholesterol.
The medication is a daily shot. The shot is given directly under the skin in the arms, legs, lower back or stomach. A nurse will teach you and/or your child how to prepare the medicine and give the shot.
Most children stay on growth hormone for several years to get the most benefit. However, children with growth hormone deficiency may need to stay on this medicine for life.
It is important to take growth hormone every day in order to get the most benefits from the medication. If a dose is missed, skip that dose. Do not double the next dose to make up for the missed dose.
Most growth hormone needs to be refrigerated. Check with your growth hormone company or your child's nurse.
This medication needs a special insurance approval at the beginning of therapy, yearly, and with each insurance change. Tell your doctor or endocrine nurse if you have new insurance.
Growth hormone is considered a safe medication, and side effects are rare. The risk of side effects varies with diagnosis. Your doctor will discuss these side effects with you in greater detail.
One side effect is headaches, which may be caused by an increase in the pressure on the brain. This is reversible and should go away once the medicine has been stopped.
Growth hormone causes children to grow faster. This fast growth can cause a problem with their hip. This is called slipped capital femoral epiphyses (i-pif-uh-seez) (SCFE). Children will usually complain of pain in the knee or hip and walk with a limp. This diagnosis is made by an X-ray.
Once your child is started on growth hormone, you should call your healthcare provider immediately for:
- Severe headaches with or without vomiting
- Knee or hip pain
Call your healthcare provider during normal business hours if there is swelling or redness at the injection site.
Children on growth hormone therapy should be seen by the endocrine provider every three to six months. Your provider will check on your child's growth and development and make dose changes as needed.
Clinic visits are extremely important to attend.