Human growth hormone and height are related because human growth hormone is responsible for growth, as well as cell reproduction. Children with a deficiency in human growth hormone will not grow properly, in addition to having other health problems. Human growth hormone is used to treat deficiencies in both children and adults.
An individual may be deficient in human growth hormone because of defects in the receptors that receive the hormones in the body, or insufficient production of the growth hormone by the pituitary gland. These problems may be the result of genetic defects, health conditions that affect the pituitary gland, liver or brain, insufficient oxygen at birth, or an autoimmune disease. Often, there is no clear reason for the problem.
In the past, individuals undergoing treatment with human growth hormone would receive the hormone extracted from the pituitary gland, often from a cadaver source. This practice was stopped when it was associated with the development of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Human growth hormone is now typically created artificially, and known as biosynthetic growth hormone, or extracted from sheep.
Children respond to human growth hormone and height treatment rapidly. Within a few months of beginning treatment, noticeable growth is usually apparent. Additional benefits of human growth hormone therapy include an increase in strength, a reduction in body fat, and an improvement in motor development.
Adults are also sometimes prescribed this treatment. Adults who are deficient in human growth hormone will not gain any height from the treatment. They will instead increase their lean muscle mass, decrease levels of fat, strengthen their immune system, and increase their bone density.
Human growth hormone is also approved for several other conditions, such as the wasting associated with AIDS, Turner syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, chronic renal failure, as treatment for children who are short due to growth retardation in the womb, and children who have idiopathic short stature. Human growth hormone and height treatment is controversial in individuals with idiopathic short stature. Experts who are against this treatment fear that some of the children receiving human growth hormone treatment have no medical issues, and are simply destined to be on the smaller side of average for height.
Treatment with human growth hormone is not without dangers. Side effects are rare, and are most common when human growth hormone is overused. Side effects include abnormal growth of hands, feet, facial bones and connective tissue, enlarged heart, low blood sugar, and liver and thyroid damage. Given the severity of side effects from human growth hormone and height treatment, many healthcare providers are cautious when prescribing the treatment.