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HGH Deficiency Testing: Diagnosing Low HGH Levels in Adults

HGH Deficiency Testing: Diagnosing Low HGH Levels in Adults

HGH Deficiency Testing The only way for your doctor to determine if you have a growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is to use specific tests designed to measure your HGH level.

Adequate amounts of human growth hormone, or HGH, is vital to your health in many ways. Therefore, a diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency could mean you may be in for some serious health issues.

There are a number of ways to test for growth hormone deficiency in adults. However, they all start with drawing blood. The various blood tests to measure your level of HGH include:

  • Binding protein levels (IGF-I and IGFBP-3) blood tests to show whether the growth problem is caused by the pituitary gland.
  • Blood tests to measure the amount of growth hormone levels in the blood.
  • Blood tests to measure other levels of hormones the pituitary gland produces.
  • GHRH-arginine test
  • Growth hormone stimulation test
  • Insulin tolerance test

We most commonly use HGH stimulation tests and the IGF-1 test to provide a diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency.

How Do I Prepare for My Growth Hormone Test?

How you prepare for your growth hormone test will depend on the test that you are given. Your health care provider may give you special instructions about what you can or cannot eat before the test. Your doctor may request one or more of the above HGH tests. Since there are some medications that can affect the results, please speak with your medical advisor about any prescription drugs you are taking, as well as any vitamin supplements that are also taken daily.

There are several tests used to diagnose growth hormone deficiency in adults.

When to Get Tested?

Your doctor will suggest that you are tested for growth hormone deficiency if you are exhibiting the following symptoms:

  • A tendency to weight gain, particularly belly fat
  • Often feeling fatigued, slow, or lethargic
  • An overall feeling of lack of energy and enthusiasm
  • Low libido and other sexual wellness issues
  • Hair loss, or thinning hair
  • Liver spots, “creepy” skin, and other skin conditions
  • A suppressed immune system, making it easier to get sick, harder to heal or recover
  • Memory loss and other cognitive difficulties
  • Bone loss and bone weakness
  • Depression, anxiety, and other emotional changes

Once you have been given a complete physical exam and other conditions that could cause these symptoms have been ruled out, your doctor will recommend an HGH blood test.

How Much Does HGH Testing Cost?

The cost of your HGH test will depend on the test given. The simpler blood test will be more inexpensive than the more sophisticated tests. The simplest tests are the HGH blood test and the IGF-1 test. The typical cost for each of these tests should be around under $200. Your actual costs may vary depending on how much your healthcare team charges for services, such as drawing your blood and sending it to the lab, or if you are referred directly to the lab.

How the Test is Done

A growth hormone stimulation test is commonly done to find out if the pituitary gland is releasing the right amount of HGH.
Instead of simply testing your blood for the amount of HGH in your blood at any given time, HGH stimulation tests introduce a medication that will stimulate your pituitary gland to release growth hormone. Once that drug is given, the level of HGH in your blood will be carefully monitored to determine if your body is producing enough HGH or not.

The other test we use most often to test your HGH is the Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) test.

Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 Test

The IGF-1 test is one of the types of tests used to determine if your body is making enough HGH. IGF-1 is an endocrine hormone produced by the liver that, along with growth hormone, helps promote normal bone and tissue growth and development. The IGF-1 test is used:

  • To help diagnose growth hormone deficiency.
  • To sometimes diagnose growth hormone excess.
  • To evaluate pituitary function.
  • To monitor the effectiveness of treatment for excess or insufficient production of HGH.

A blood sample will be drawn from a vein in your arm to do the test. Since HGH levels fluctuate throughout the day, we do not test for HGH but rather IGF-1. IGF-1 mirrors HGH excesses and deficiencies, but the level in the blood is stable throughout the day, making it a more useful indicator of average HGH levels than testing for HGH.
Before performing specific HGH testing, if the IGF-1 level is found to be normal for your age and sex, growth hormone deficiency can usually be, and you should not require any other HGH blood tests or additional diagnostic exams.

The HGH blood test and the IGF-1 test are the most commonly used HGH blood tests.

What Do the Results of an HGH Test Mean?

Since the normal level of HGH is not the same for all people, if an HGH blood test is used, your diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency is based on your HGH levels relative to Body Mass Index, or BMI.

Doctors use the following criteria to form a diagnosis of HGH deficiency in adults when using the growth hormone stimulation test:

  • Peak HGH level less than11.1 mcg/L in patients with BMI less than 25
  • Peak HGH level less than 8.1 mcg/L in patients with BMI of 25 to less than 30
  • Peak HGH level less than 4.1 mcg/L in patients with BMI equal to or greater than 30

If the IGF-1 stimulation test is used, then a determination of GHD will be made per the following normal values.

Male Ageng/mLFemale Ageng/mL
18109-52718114-493
19104-48419105-441
2098-4432097-398
21-2583-34421-2584-323
26-3075-27526-3077-271
31-3571-24131-3573-244
36-4069-22636-4068-225
41-4564-21041-4562-205
46-5059-20146-5056-194
51-5556-20151-5553-191
56-6051-19456-6045-173
61-6547-19161-6541-168
66-7046-19566-7039-168
71-7542-18771-7536-166
76-8039-18476-8035-168
80-8537-18280-8535-179
85-9035-18285-9033-179

After the Test

If the results of either of your tests indicate a diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency, you may be prescribed growth hormone replacement therapy. You may also qualify for alternative therapies such as Sermorelin therapy. Your doctor will determine the best treatment for you based on your test results, your symptoms, your treatment goals, and your unique lifestyle. Usually, the therapy of choice to treat growth hormone deficiency is a six-month program of HGH injections. Genuine growth hormone therapy is only given via injection and is only available with a doctor’s prescription.

If the results of your HGH tests reveal that you have a growth hormone deficiency, you will likely be prescribed growth hormone therapy.

Other Exams and Tests to Diagnose Growth Hormone Deficiency

In addition to the various blood tests mentioned above, doctors use several other tests to diagnose growth hormone deficiency. These include:

  • A dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan measures your bone density.
  • An MRI of the brain may be taken so your doctor can see the pituitary gland and hypothalamus.
  • Hand x-rays (typically of the left hand) can also help show your doctor your bones. The shape and size of bones change as a healthy person grows. Your doctor can see bone abnormalities with this x-ray.
  • X-rays of the head can show any problems with the bone growth of your skull.

FAQ

Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is a condition caused by insufficient amounts of growth hormone in the body. Children with GHD have abnormally short stature with normal body proportions. Adults with GHD can exhibit any number of debilitating symptoms, none of which are related to size.
The normal range for HGH level is typically:For adult males -- 0.4 to 10 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), or 18 to 44 picomoles per liter (pmol/L); For adult females -- 1 to 14 ng/mL, or 44 to 616 pmol/L; For children -- 10 to 50 ng/mL, or 440 to 2200 pmol/L
Growth hormone deficiency is diagnosed using several possible diagnostic tests. The most common tests are an HGH blood test or an IGF-1 test.
An adult who is making too little growth hormone will have symptoms that include: A higher level of body fat, especially around the waist; Anxiety and depression; Decreased sexual function and interest in sex; Fatigue; Feelings of being isolated from other people; Greater sensitivity to heat and cold; Less muscle (lean body mass); Less strength, stamina, and ability to exercise without taking a rest; Reduced bone density and a tendency to have more bone fractures as they get older; Changes in the makeup of the blood cholesterol.
Unlike other important hormones such as testosterone, your levels of HGH fluctuate throughout the day. This makes it difficult to make a diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency with a simple blood draw. More sophisticated diagnostic tests are required, such as those that test your body's ability to produce human growth hormone.
HGH tests are designed to see if your body is making enough HGH. HGH is a vital hormone critical to your health and wellbeing. If the results of your HGH test or tests indicate that you have a growth hormone deficiency, you may be prescribed growth hormone replacement therapy.
The safest and most effective way to treat a growth hormone deficiency is with growth hormone replacement therapy. HGH therapy is only given via injection. Prescription HGH injections are available under many names. Some of the most common growth hormone injections prescribed to treat GHD are: Genotropin, Omnitrope, Norditropin, Humatrope, Saizen. These differ only in their level of “quality,” their available dosages, and their delivery methods. Your medical professional will decide which is the right HGH prescription for you.
If your test results indicate that you have age-related HGH deficiency and you choose not to have the recommended therapy, your condition and your symptoms will only get worse, and you can expect an increasing decline in your quality of life.
Written by Author - AuthorsDoctors/Authors - Medically reviewed by   Reviewers Reviewers - Created at May 25, 2018 - Updated on February 17, 2021