Growth hormone helps children grow. Another name for this hormone is somatotropin. Some people make too much or too little growth hormone. This can lead to disease.
Too little growth hormone can cause a condition called pituitary dwarfism, meaning little growth. Children who do not make enough growth hormone are usually shorter than other children their age. They may have more fat around their stomachs and face, and lower-than-normal levels of sugar (glucose) in their blood. Adults who have damage to their pituitary gland may fail to make enough growth hormone. This condition, called adult growth hormone deficiency, causes weight gain, along with weak muscles and bones.
If a child's body produces too much growth hormone, a rare disorder called gigantism results. Gigantism causes bones to grow very fast. The person becomes very tall. People who have gigantism have very large hands and feet, and thick fingers and toes. If the body produces too much growth hormone after a person stops growing, the condition is called acromegaly. Acro means "end" and megaly means "enlarged." This condition usually strikes adults between age thirty and fifty. Cancerous tumors of the pituitary gland can cause too much growth hormone to be released.
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