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Growth Hormone Connected to Increased Eye Pressure in Children

Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Published Online: Thursday, August 16, 2012

Children receiving recombinant growth hormone appear to experience increased intraocular pressure, which is associated with glaucoma.

According to a study published online on June 25, 2012, in the Journal of Pediatrics, children receiving recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) may experience increased intraocular pressure (IOP) compared with children not receiving the treatment. However, IOP for children in the treatment group was still within the normal eye pressure range.
 
rhGH is used to treat children with idiopathic short stature, growth hormone deficiency, and a few genetic diseases like Turner syndrome. In 1995, researchers documented a 7-year-old child who developed glaucoma while receiving rhGH treatments. Recently, rhGH has been prescribed for a larger range of indications, such as AIDS-related wasting and chronic renal insufficiency, and for longer periods of time.
 
Pediatric glaucoma occurs in 2 different forms: primary infantile glaucoma, which is rare and occurs during the first few years of life, and secondary glaucoma, which occurs more frequently and is linked to drug treatment, most often steroid use, as well as systemic therapies.
 
In the current study, researchers observed 55 children aged 5 years and older who had received rhGH treatment for 12 months before observation began. A control group of 24 children was also observed. Children with a family history of glaucoma or high IOP were excluded. Since renal failure has been associated with high IOP, children with renal failure were excluded as well. The researchers found that children in the treatment group had an average IOP of 16 mm Hg, while children in the untreated group averaged 13 mm Hg. Within the treatment group, longer treatment and higher doses were both linked to higher IOP levels.
 
Additional research is needed, as the study's lead author, llan Youngster, MD, of Tel-Aviv University in Israel, told Reuters: "This is a very preliminary study that from my point of view only tells us that this is something we should look into.” For instance, it is still unknown what the effect of rhGH treatment is after treatment concludes.

Ms. Wick is a visiting professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy and a freelance writer from Virginia.
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