Blood Test: Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

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Parents

What It Is

Luteinizing hormone (LH) plays an important role in sexual development and is produced by the pea-sized pituitary gland near the brain. An LH test measures the level of this hormone in the bloodstream.

In kids, LH levels are high right after birth, but then fall, remaining low until puberty approaches (usually between ages 10 and 14). At this time the hypothalamus, an almond-sized area of the brain that links the nervous system with the hormone-producing endocrine system, releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) that starts the changes of puberty. GnRH signals the pituitary gland to release two other puberty hormones into the bloodstream: LH and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).

In boys, LH and FSH work together to get the testes to begin producing testosterone, the hormone responsible for the physical changes of puberty and the production of sperm.

In girls, LH and FSH prompt the ovaries to begin producing the hormone estrogen, which causes a girl's body to mature and prepares her for menstruation.

Because LH and FSH work so closely with each other, doctors often perform these tests together, as well as tests for testosterone (the major male sex hormone) and estradiol (a form of estrogen, the major female sex hormone). Taken together, the results can often provide a more complete picture of a child's sexual maturation, and the well-being of the glands that produce these hormones.

Why It's Done

Doctors may order an LH test if a boy or girl appears to be entering puberty much earlier or much later than expected. High levels are associated with precocious (early) puberty, while low levels may indicate a delay in sexual development.

The test may also be used to check for damage or disease of the testes or ovaries, pituitary gland, or hypothalamus.

In adults and teens, LH levels can also help doctors evaluate fertility issues and menstrual problems.

Preparation

No special preparations are needed for this test. It may help to have your child wear a short-sleeve shirt on the day of the test to allow easier access for the technician who will be drawing the blood.

The Procedure

A health professional will clean the skin surface with antiseptic, and place an elastic band (tourniquet) around the upper arm to apply pressure and cause the veins to swell with blood. Then a needle is inserted into a vein (usually in the arm inside of the elbow or on the back of the hand) and blood is withdrawn and collected in a vial or syringe.

After the procedure, the elastic band is removed. Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed and the area is covered with cotton or a bandage to stop the bleeding. Collecting the blood for the test will only take a few minutes.

drawing_blood

What to Expect

Collecting a sample of blood is only temporarily uncomfortable and can feel like a quick pinprick. Afterward, there may be some mild bruising, which should go away in a few days.

Getting the Results

The blood sample will be processed by a machine, and results are usually available in a couple of days.

Risks

The LH test is considered a safe procedure. However, as with many medical tests, some problems can occur with having blood drawn:

  • fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin causing a lump or bruise)
  • pain associated with multiple punctures to locate a vein

Helping Your Child

Having a blood test is relatively painless. Still, many children are afraid of needles. Explaining the test in terms your child can understand might help ease some of the fear.

Allow your child to ask the technician any questions he or she might have. Tell your child to try to relax and stay still during the procedure, as tensing muscles and moving can make it harder and more painful to draw blood. It also may help if your child looks away when the needle is being inserted into the skin.

If You Have Questions

If you have questions about the LH test, speak with your doctor.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: March 2011



Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
OrganizationHormone Foundation The Hormone Foundation's mission is to serve as a resource for the public by promoting the prevention, treatment, and cure of hormone-related diseases.


Related Articles

Sexual Development Changes become more dramatic and complex with the onset of puberty, and kids are likely to have lots of questions. These articles can help you become a trusted source of information, comfort, and support for your kids.
Understanding Puberty Puberty was awkward enough when you were the one going through it. So how can you help your kids through all the changes?
Blood Test: Estradiol Estradiol is the most important form of the hormone estrogen. Doctors may order an estradiol test if a girl appears to be entering puberty earlier or later than expected, or to evaluate menstrual problems.
Understanding Early Sexual Development Young kids develop an emotional and physical foundation for sexuality in many subtle ways as they grow. By understanding how your kids grow and learn, you can play an important role in fostering their emotional and physical health.
Blood Test: Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) plays an important role in sexual development. An FSH test to measure the level of FSH in the bloodstream may be done if a boy or girl appears to be entering puberty earlier or later than expected.
Blood Test: Prolactin A prolactin test can help diagnose prolactinoma, a usually benign tumor of the pituitary gland, irregular menstrual periods, thyroid or adrenal gland dysfunction, and other problems.
Blood Test: Testosterone A testosterone blood test may be done if a boy appears to be entering puberty earlier or later than expected, or to check for damage or disease of the testes or ovaries, adrenal glands, or pituitary glands.
Precocious Puberty Precocious puberty - the onset of signs of puberty before age 7 or 8 in girls and age 9 for boys - can be physically and emotionally difficult for children and can sometimes be the sign of an underlying health problem.
Endocrine System Although we rarely think about them, the glands of the endocrine system and the hormones they release influence almost every cell, organ, and function of our bodies.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2012 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.



 

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