Growth Problems | Diagnosis & Treatments

How can my child’s doctor tell if she has a growth problem?

Diagnosis of a growth problem must be made by your child's physician, and the method will depend on your child’s symptoms. In addition to a complete medical history, physical examination, and asking about the heights and any health problems of the child’s relatives, diagnostic tests may include:

  • observation of your child's health and growth over a period of time
  • blood tests (to rule out hormone, chromosomal, or other disorders associated with growth failure)
  • a scan of the pituitary gland, which produces and regulates growth hormones (to detect abnormalities)
  • an x-ray of your child’s hand or wrist (to compare bone development with height and chronological age and determine growth potential)

It’s important for growth problems to be diagnosed early, since the earlier the diagnosis, the more effective treatment may be.

What treatments are available for growth problems?

If a medical condition causes the growth problem, treatment of that condition may alleviate the growth problem. Your child's doctor will determine the best course of treatment, which often involves hormone replacement therapy. Your child's treatment plan could include daily or weekly injections.

Fortunately, this therapy often produces significant and reassuring growth. During the first year of therapy, children with growth hormone deficiency see an increase of an average of 4 inches, and this number is slightly less for children with other growth disorders.

Growth problems may make your child feel insecure or self-conscious, and if appropriate, we can put you in touch with mental health professionals to help with any negative feelings your child may be experiencing.

How safe is growth hormone therapy?

While there are many potential side effects, researchers generally agree that treatment with human growth hormone is safe and effective. In 1985, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a biosynthetic growth hormone, thus:

  • eliminating the risk of disease transmission from human growth hormone (previously, the only source of this hormone had been from the pituitary glands of the deceased)
  • creating an unlimited supply of the hormone