Human growth hormone (HGH) treatment is heralded by some as the fountain of youth humanity has been seeking for eons – but unfortunately, there are human growth hormone side effects. Originally used as replacement therapy for deficient individuals, HGH is being used increasingly often by athletes, elderly people with age related health problems, and aging baby boomers attempting to hold back the ravages of time. For these people, adverse effects of the treatment can be significant.
The known side effects of human growth hormone seem to be predominantly dose dependent – that is, the higher the dose of HGH, the more likely it is that any given side effect will occur. It’s important, then, to understand what is meant by “normal levels.” When researchers test HGH levels in a large group of healthy volunteers, the results produce a range of values that are considered to be normal. Any test result outside that range will be considered too low or too high. Research has determined that human HGH levels change over a lifetime – after full growth is attained, the level begins to drop. Thus, in assessing human growth hormone side effects, one must consider the normal HGH level for the age of the patient.
For children and adults that are deficient in HGH, replacement therapy seeks to put their blood levels back into the normal range. For these patients, the therapy alleviates many of the health affects of deficiency, and side effects of human growth hormone are relatively rare. For athletes and older adults who already have normal levels, however, treatment with HGH essentially aims to raise blood levels above the normal range, artificially creating a condition of HGH excess. It is these individuals who are at greatest risk of human growth hormone side effects.
The syndrome seen in adults whose pituitary glands produce too much HGH is called acromegaly, and the symptoms of acromegaly are the same as those seen in adults who experience side effects of human growth hormone treatment. The facial bones grow bigger and heavier, changing the look of the face. Muscle weakness may set in, along with abnormalities of the peripheral nerves. Heart problems, diabetes, and high blood pressure have also been reported. As already mentioned, the risk of these human growth hormone side effects grows with the amount of HGH given, but over time, the damage can be serious and irreversible.
Even patients who do not suffer the full syndrome of acromegaly frequently experience side effects of human growth hormone supplementation. Common symptoms include edema (swelling or puffiness) due to water retention, carpal tunnel syndrome (nerve damage affecting hands, wrists and arms), and joint or muscle pain. In most cases where these symptoms are relatively mild and of short duration, adjusting the dose or discontinuing treatment brings relief from the human growth hormone side effects.
Human growth hormone therapy has also been tried for critically ill hospital patients in the hope that it would speed recovery. These studies did not yield the expected results – instead, researchers noted increased mortality and longer hospital stays in patients receiving high doses of HGH. Given these potentially serious, even life threatening side effects of human growth hormone, the safety of HGH therapy in healthy individuals with normal blood HGH levels must be seriously questioned.
R. Drysdale is a freelance writer with more than 25 years experience as a health care professional. You can learn more about human growth hormone side effects on the AntiAging Information site.