Lab Blood Tests
Your Pituitary Gland
Growth hormone is made by the pituitary gland. It’s a pea-sized gland near the center of your head, just below the front of the brain and behind your nose.
GH isn’t the only hormone made by the pituitary gland. In fact, the pituitary has been called the “master gland” because its hormones help control other hormones. It’s part of what’s called the endocrine system, which oversees many body functions.
But if too much or too little GH is in your body, there may be something wrong with your pituitary gland.
In children, you may find this out during a visit with your pediatrician.
During a typical visit, your pediatrician will likely check your child for height, weight, and head size and see how he compares with the normal range for children of that age. If the measurements are outside that range, she may order tests.
Lab Blood Tests
If you’re an adult, you may want to visit your doctor if your symptoms include:
- Low energy
- Less strength
- Decline in muscle mass
- Increase in body fat
There are many different possible causes for these symptoms, but they may also signal issues with GH production. A test can measure the amount of GH in your blood.
Your pituitary gland releases GH in pulses that vary by sex, age, and even time of day. That is why doctors use different methods to stimulate or suppress the release of growth hormone before you take the test.
Our bodies usually change quietly, almost without notice. Children grow taller. Our hairoften thins as we age. It’s all part of maturing, and it’s controlled by hormones. But sometimes things go wrong.
The hormone that helps control growth and the chemical reactions in our bodies is called human growth hormone. (You may see it written as HGH, or GH for short.) Your body might make it in great amounts or not at all.
Too much or too little HGH can lead to a variety of issues, including:
- Acromegaly (too much growth of hands, feet, facial bones, and other body parts)
- Bone weakness
- Delayed puberty
If you or your child has any of these conditions, your doctor may suggest you take a growth hormone stimulation test. The basis of this test is a simple blood sample, which is then looked at in a lab.
Though growth hormone issues can cause problems if left untreated, treating them may be as simple as a regular injection of growth hormone. And in children, these issues may get better on their own over time.
If you’re having surgery—even a minor procedure—the doctor may order blood tests. While interpreting blood tests are best left to a physician, it may be helpful to understand what the test is looking for, and what’s considered a “normal” result.