Hormonal or endocrine problems can also affect growth. The endocrine system is made up of a number of glands that secrete hormones in the blood. (To find out more about types of hormones and what they do visit hormones, glands and growth).
Hormonal issues include problems with the:
- Pituitary gland: it produces many different hormones. A problem with this gland, as a result of a congenital defect, head injury or tumour can result in growth hormone deficiency, which will reduce growth.
- Thyroid: it produces the hormone thyroxine - if not enough is produced, growth will slow down. Thyroid disease can be treated with medication to replace the missing thyroxine.
- Adrenal glands: they release the hormone cortisol. An excess of cortisol, which can be caused by a tumor in the adrenal or pituitary glands, has an inhibitory effect on growth, since it inhibits growth hormone release.
- Glucose metabolism: diabetes mellitus (also called type 1 diabetes) is a condition where the body is not able to process glucose (sugar) properly. As a result there is too much sugar in the blood. Although diabetes itself does not cause growth problems, if the body is not able to regulate the blood sugars properly issues with growth can occur. Diabetes can be treated with insulin: this is the hormone that causes the glucose to be absorbed from the blood into the body’s cells, where it can be stored.