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What is growth hormone?


Growth hormone (somatotropin) is an organic compound that stimulates the growth of bone, cartilage, and tissue. It also influences the metabolism (break down) of proteins, carbohydrates, and fat. Growth hormone is one of several hormones produced by the anterior (front) lobe of the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain.

Growth hormone imbalances

Children need growth hormone to grow normally. Although an adult's bones have stopped growing lengthwise, adults continue to need growth hormone to maintain their bones, muscles, and body fat, as well as maintain their strength, energy, and quality of life. Various medical conditions occur when the body produces too much or too little growth hormone. These conditions are caused by gene mutations, pituitary gland damage (due to tumor, radiation, trauma, or surgery), or problems with the hypothalamus (which controls the pituitary gland).

Growth hormone excess can lead to tall stature in children or enlarged features and thickened skin in adults.

Growth hormone deficiency can lead to short stature in children or decreased muscle mass and weakness in adults. People with growth hormone excess or deficiency will typically be referred to a specialist called an endocrinologist. The endocrinologist will properly diagnose growth hormone levels in their patients and monitor their treatment accordingly. People diagnosed with excess growth hormone usually suffer from either pituitary gigantism or acromegaly. These conditions are typically caused by a slow-growing, noncancerous tumor located in the pituitary gland and result in tall stature.

Treatment options include surgical removal of the tumor (up to 80% cure rate), radiation, and prescription medications.

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Answers to questions regarding information about medications or health conditions are not for diagnostic or treatment purposes and are not conclusive as to the presence or absence of any health condition. Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment of your medical condition. The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of the scientific literature may vary. Walgreens' terms of use and general warranty disclaimer apply to all services provided. If you are in need of immediate medical attention, contact your physician, poison control center or emergency medical professional. If you need to speak with a pharmacist for non-emergency matters, contact your local Walgreens pharmacist or call a pharmacist toll-free at 1 (877) 250-5823.

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