Growth Hormone Side Effects


Growth hormone, also known as somatotropin or somatropin, is a peptide made by the pituitary gland. It helps with growth and development, particularly in adolescence. People take human growth hormone (HGH) to slow down aging and as a bodybuilding supplement. There are advantages, but it’s important to be aware of the risks of long-term use and of side effects.

Side effects differ based on how and why HGH is used. Temporary side effects can include:

  • high blood sugar
  • joint pain
  • swelling of body tissue (edema)

Long-term side effects can include:

  • diabetes
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • heart muscle thickening (cardiomyopathy)
  • vision issues
  • nerve pain
  • increased risk of cancer

Other long-term complications can be damage to the liver or kidneys, enzyme deficiencies, fluid buildup (ascites), facial hair (acromegaly), enlarged hands and feet, and other aging-related physical changes.

Overview of Growth Hormone

Growth hormone (GH) is a hormone made by the pituitary gland. It helps people and animals grow. But it isn’t without side effects. Let’s explore GH and its possible consequences.

What is Growth Hormone?

Growth hormone (GH) is a peptide hormone that aids in cell reproduction and growth in both children and adults. It is produced by the pituitary gland, situated at the base of the brain. GH works with other hormones, such as IGF-1, to control carb, fat, and protein metabolism. It also helps maintain healthy organs and tissues, regulate metabolism, support physical development, and protect bones from disease.

In recent years, GH has become more commonly used for medical purposes. It is sometimes used to treat people with GH deficiencies. Furthermore, some athletes use it for performance enhancement, although this is very controversial due to the health risks associated.

Possible side effects of GH supplementation include:

  • Headaches
  • Joint pain/swelling
  • Numbness/tingling around injection sites

Long-term effects may include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Enlarged hands/feet
  • Conn’s Syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of blood clots

Additionally, GH use can lead to enlarged organs, nerve damage/paralysis, vision problems, and enlargement of spinal cord tissue causing pressure on nerve endings, which can result in serious harm or death.

How does Growth Hormone Work?

Growth hormone, aka somatotropin, is a polypeptide hormone that spurs growth and cell reproduction. It’s made in the pituitary gland and secreted in a pulsatile and diurnal manner. Peak of the growth hormone secretion happens when we sleep in stage 3 non-REM sleep. Its production is regulated by hormones released from the hypothalamus, such as GHRH and somatostatin.

Growth hormone has effects at the cellular level. It binds to receptors in muscle cells, boosting protein synthesis for muscle development. It also shifts energy metabolism from lipid oxidation to glucose oxidation, an energy source for cell proliferation. Growth hormone stimulators like IGF-1 also aid in bone health and fetal development. In high doses, exogenous growth hormones can affect body composition, fluid levels, and heart rate.

Studies showed that growth hormones can help recovery time after intense exercise. They slow down age-related muscle loss. People who take production enhancing supplements should be careful, as unregulated use can lead to imbalances or other conditions, such as:

  • Joint pain/swelling
  • Hair loss
  • Weakened immunity (especially for athletes)
  • Muscle wasting
  • Diabetes mellitus type II

Potential Side Effects

Growth hormone use can lead to serious side effects. These include higher insulin resistance, the chance of diabetes, joint and muscle pain, as well as high blood pressure and heart attack. It’s important to know the possible risks before starting a growth hormone therapy program.

In this article, we’ll look at the potential side effects of growth hormone use and how to help reduce them:


Acromegaly is an affliction caused by too much growth hormone. It can come from abnormal tissue in the pituitary gland. This leads to abnormal growth in adults. People with acromegaly have enlarged hands and feet, a protruding lower jaw, a wide nose, and a rougher face.

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the hands
  • Headaches
  • Vision issues
  • Excessive sweating

If untreated, acromegaly can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Treatment involves medications to control hormone levels, surgery to remove tumors, and radiation if necessary.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is an ailment caused by compression of nerves in the wrist. It can be a side effect of human growth hormone (HGH) treatment. This can result in swelling and additional conditions that put pressure on the nerves in the wrist.

Signs of CTS include:

  • tingling and numbness in the fingers
  • aching and/or burning sensation in the hand/wrist
  • weaker grip strength
  • clumsiness when using hands or difficulty handling fine motor skills

Those taking HGH to build muscle should be aware of potential signs of CTS, since it may be a hint that their HGH dosage is too much. Before using HGH, individuals should consult with a healthcare provider about risks associated with the use.

Joint Pain

Considering HGH therapy? It’s important to understand the potential side effects, like joint and muscle pain. This is caused by fluid in the joints due to large doses over time. Patients may also experience swelling, joint stiffness and fatigue.

Before taking HGH injections, weigh the risks and benefits. An expert in hormonal health can help find a safe and balanced treatment plan.


Growth hormone can affect blood sugar levels. It’s linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Studies found elevated fasting glucose, impaired glucose tolerance, decreased insulin sensitivity, and more fasting insulin.

Plus, growth hormone therapy can alter lipid metabolism. This may cause higher triglyceride levels. The reason isn’t clear, but it could be from impaired lipolysis and more very-low density lipoprotein production.

For those on GH therapy, regular monitoring of fasting blood sugars and lipids (triglycerides) is recommended. As these side effects are possible:

High Cholesterol

High cholesterol is a symptom of growth hormone treatment in adults and kids. It has been linked to heart disease. Your healthcare provider should keep an eye on your or your child’s cholesterol levels and give advice on reducing them if necessary.

To manage high cholesterol, they may suggest lifestyle changes like eating healthy with less saturated fat and exercising. Your doctor could even prescribe medicines like statins, that lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL).

Fluid Retention

Growth hormone use has a connection to water retention. It binds with sodium, chloride, and water in the body. This causes an increase in total body water, giving a bloated, swollen look. There can also be edema (swelling) of the extremities and joint pains.

Plus, growth hormone use can cause an upsurge in insulin levels. This leads to complications with glucose metabolism and electrolyte imbalances, potentially causing hyponatremia (low serum sodium).

The oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells can be higher right after growth hormone use. But, this goes back to normal after 3 months. So, it is better to avoid intense physical activity for this amount of time. EADS, an imbalance that can cause sudden death due to extreme physical exertion, is also a risk.

To sum up, these are potential side effects from too much growth hormone use. It is wise to talk to a health professional before using it.

Muscle Pain

Muscle pain is a common complaint of taking somatropin (supplemental growth hormone). It can be mild or intense. It could be a cramp or just soreness. This discomfort can be in any muscle group. Other issues can include joint aches and difficulty walking up stairs due to fatigue. Long-term use could lead to more severe conditions such as myopathy and arthralgia.

There are ways to reduce this pain. Relaxation breaks, gentle stretching and massage therapy can help. Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and vitamin E can also support better health – which can reduce symptoms.

Nerve Pain

Growth hormone (GH) therapy can lead to nerve pain. GH is made in the brain, but it can also go right to the spinal cord and nerves, causing aches.

Arthralgia is one of the side effects, causing joint and muscle pain. It can last weeks if not treated. People may also feel numbness and burning in their feet.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is another type of nerve pain. CTS occurs when the nerve in the wrist is under too much pressure and causes discomfort in the hands and wrists. Tingling and numbness may also be felt.

Other side effects of GH therapy include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping problems
  • Sweating
  • Stomach pains
  • Low blood sugar
  • High cholesterol

Monitor these symptoms closely with a doctor.

Low Bone Density

Growth hormone (GH) therapy can be beneficial for some diseases, but it can also lead to low bone density. Studies show those who use GH treatments long-term have lower mineral components in their bones and a higher risk of fractures and osteoporosis.

Those using GH therapy may need calcium and vitamin D supplementation. Additionally, weight-bearing exercises and foods rich in dietary protein can help maintain healthy bone density. This can also reduce metabolic stress on the bones and reduce the risk of GH therapy side effects.


Growth hormone injections are popular, but can have long-term side effects. Be aware of the risks involved before deciding on hormone therapy. Joint pain, muscle pain, swelling, could be experienced during treatment. In some cases, growth hormone may increase cancer risk or cause enlarged organs or soft tissue masses.

If considering growth hormone injections for your child, discuss any concerns with the doctor. Consider the potential benefits and risks. Ultimately, decide what makes medical sense for your individual situation to get the best possible care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are some common side effects of growth hormone use?
A: Some common side effects of growth hormone use include swelling, joint pain, and an increased risk of diabetes.

Q: How long do growth hormone side effects last?
A: The length of the side effects will depend on the individual, the dosage, and the length of time using the hormone. In most cases, the side effects will go away once use of the hormone is stopped.

Q: Is growth hormone use safe for children?
A: Growth hormone use must be closely monitored by a physician to ensure safety for children. Side effects may be more severe for children than adults.

Q: Can growth hormone use cause cancer?
A: Studies have shown a possible link between growth hormone use and an increased risk of cancer. It is important to discuss this concern with a physician before beginning growth hormone therapy.

Q: Can growth hormone use affect fertility in men and women?
A: Growth hormone use can potentially affect fertility in both men and women. It is important to discuss any fertility concerns with a physician before beginning growth hormone therapy.

Q: Are there any long-term side effects of growth hormone use?
A: Long-term side effects of growth hormone use are still being studied. However, potential risks may include an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

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