The effects of severe growth hormone deficiency on the skin of patients with Sheehan's syndrome


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Background  Growth hormone (GH) may play an important role in the content and appearance of the skin. Dry, thin and pale skin has been described in hypopituitarism. Sheehan's syndrome is characterized by anterior pituitary dysfunction due to postpartum pituitary necrosis and GH is one of the hormones lost first.

Objective  The aim of this study was to examine the hydration of the skin of patients with Sheehan's syndrome using measurements of capacitance, sebum content, transepidermal water loss, pH and temperature. The data were compared with those of control subjects.

Methods  A total of 21 patients with Sheehan's syndrome and 20 women as control subjects were included in this blinded prospective study. Hormone deficiencies other than GH had been adequately replaced. The diagnosis of GH deficiency (GHD) was established by the insulin tolerance test (ITT). Skin properties were measured by non-invasive and well-established methods.

Results  The skin capacitance had decreased on the forehead and forearm and sebum content had decreased on the forehead of patients with Sheehan's syndrome when compared with control subjects. The pH, temperature and average transepidermal water loss (TEWL) of the skin of the patients were not statistically different from the controls.

Conclusion  GHD results in a decrease in skin capacitance and sebum content indicating that GH and/or insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) have an important role in skin function.