Growth Disorders

What are Growth Disorders?

A growth disorder is a condition in which the body grows faster or slower than usual. This happens for different reasons and affects different parts of the body. There are several types of growth disorders and they can affect any age group.

When a growth disorder is caused by a lack of hormones, the condition is called a growth hormone deficiency (GHD). GHD can occur at birth or develop later in life.

Types of Growth Disorders

The three main types of growth disorders can be categorized as hormonal, genetic, and syndromes. Growth disorders can affect children and adults.

Common types of growth disorders:

  • Hormonal — Caused by an abnormal level of hormones in the body. A hormonal growth disorder is called a growth hormone deficiency.
  • Genetic — Growth disorders inherited from family members.
  • Syndromes and Disorders — A group of growth disorders caused by abnormal mutations.


Growth hormone deficiency symptoms affect size, weight, and sexual maturity.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Delayed puberty
  • Weakened muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Slowed growth
  • Short height
  • Depression
  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Headaches
  • Facial irregularities
  • Anxiety
  • Memory issues

Facial irregularities are often caused by pituitary gland malfunctions. Adults with GHD, sometimes called AGHD, often have high cholesterol. They are also prone to heart disease and diabetes.


There are many potential causes for growth hormone deficiency. The most common cause is a malfunction in the pituitary glands that produce growth hormones.

Common growth hormone disorder causes:

  • Genetic mutations
  • Inherited conditions
  • Extreme brain injury
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Radiation treatments
  • Infections

In some cases, there is no identifiable cause.


A growth hormone specialist will often make a growth hormone deficiency diagnosis. A growth hormone deficiency is usually diagnosed by measuring the levels of human growth hormones in your body.

Additional growth hormone disorder tests include:

  • Physical exam — This exam measures your height and weight, along with the length of your arms and legs.
  • Blood tests — Blood tests measure the hormone levels in your body.
  • GH Stimulation Test — This screening test is similar to a blood test and identifies a growth hormone deficiency.
  • Pituitary exam —  A pituitary exam looks for any abnormalities in your pituitary gland that could be affecting growth hormone production.
  • Imaging scan — An X-RAY of your head or hands to look for abnormalities. This can help identify potential underlying conditions causing the growth disorder.
  • Genetic testing — This testing involves a blood or tissue sample. Genetic testing can help doctors better understand the underlying cause of a person's growth disorder and can be useful in determining which treatment is best.


The most common growth hormone deficiency treatment is injection with synthetic growth hormones. This might be done either every day or three times per week depending on the severity and response to treatment.

Doctors often treat children with growth hormone deficiencies until puberty triggers their body to naturally produce growth hormones. Some children and adults require long term treatment for the rest of their lives.

Your doctor will reassess your treatment needs by regularly measuring the growth hormones in your body.

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