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Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency - Diagnosis

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Diagnosis of the Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency Syndrome

GH deficiency in adults occurs because of some type of injury to the pituitary gland. Injury usually can occur because of the presence of a pituitary tumor, or pituitary surgery or pituitary irradiation. It can also be caused by trauma to the gland or, very rarely, inflammation. The cause is usually quite obvious to the endocrinologist physician, who will consider the diagnosis of GH deficiency in patients with known pituitary damage. Although GH circulates in blood, it disappears rapidly from the bloodstream and enters into the tissues. Because of this, GH is commonly undetectable in normal individuals as well as in GH deficient patients. A blood GH level taken randomly, in other words, is usually low. For this reason, endocrinologists need to find another way to prove deficiency of this hormone. This is done by checking to see if stimulating the pituitary releases GH. There are various ways to stimulate the pituitary to release GH (called "GH stimulation tests"). If your physician thinks you may be GH deficient, he or she will usually pick one of the standard tests. The testing is done in the outpatient setting and usually takes about two to three hours. You may be instructed not to eat prior to the test. This type of stimulation testing is not only necessary for medical diagnosis, but often for insurance purposes.