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Pituitary Dwarfism


Overview :

Pituitary dwarfism is caused by problems arising in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is also called the hypophysis. The pituitary gland is divided into two halves: the anterior (front) and posterior (back) halves. The anterior half produces six hormones: growth hormone, adrenocorticotropin (corticotropin), thyroid stimulating homone (thyrotropin), prolactin, follicle stimulating hormone, and lutenizing hormone. The posterior pituitary gland only produces two hormones. It produces antidiuretic hormone (vasopressin) and oxytocin.

Most forms of dwarfism are a result of decreased production of hormones from the anterior half of the pituitary gland. The most common form is due to decreases of growth hormone which will be discussed here. These decreases during childhood cause the individual's arms, legs, and other structures to develop normal proportions for their bodies, but at a decreased rate.

When all of the hormones of the anterior pituitary gland are not produced, this is called panhypopituitarism. Another type of dwarfism occurs when only the growth hormone is decreased. Dwarfism can also result from a lack of somatomedin C (also called insulin like growth factor, IGF-1) production. Somatomedin C is a hormone produced in the liver that increases bone growth when growth hormone is present. The African pygmy and the Levi-Lorain dwarfs lack the ability to produce somatomedin C in response to growth hormone. All causes of dwarfism lead to a proportionate little person.

Growth is the body's response to different hormones. The forebrain contains a small organ called the hypothalamus, which is responsible for releasing hormones in response to the body's needs for purposes of regulation. Growth hormone is produced in the anterior pituitary gland when growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH), is released by the hypothalamus. Growth hormone is then released and stimulates the liver to produce IGF-1. In return, IGF-1 stimulates the long bones to grow in length. Thus, growth can be slowed down or stopped if there is a problem making any of these hormones or if there is a problem with the cells receiving these hormones.

Some estimates show that there are between 10,000 and 15,000 children in the United States who have growth problems due to a deficiency of growth hormone.




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