The term “short stature” may be used in a variety of ways and generally means a person’s height is below average. In children, height is measured from birth to track normal growth patterns based on the individual’s circumstance. While a child’s growth may be significantly slower than normal, they may be perfectly healthy. However, short stature may signify an underlying medical condition.
When a child’s growth is significantly slower than normal, there are typically three reasons: genetics (familial), constitutional delay, or a chronic disease.
When children have familial short stature, it will be evident in their genetic makeup. They will typically have short parents and grandparents. In these cases, the children grow at a normal rate, and they will enter puberty at a normal age. Their growth is consistent with their genes, and there is no underlying medical reason to be concerned about. There are, however, genetic diseases that are not familial in nature that can lead to short stature. These conditions are addressed below.
Constitutional growth delay can be easily described as children who are “late bloomers.” In this situation, the child’s growth rate may be within a normal range, but they are simply small for their age.
Typically, children who have a constitutional growth delay also have a close relative who showed similar growth delay patterns. “Late bloomers” may also enter puberty at an older age. Thus, even though their peers may grow faster, these children will continue to grow when others have stopped. In fact, they may not, especially in males, reach their full adult height until after the age of 18.
There are, however, a few situations that may cause constitutional growth delay, including malnutrition and psychosocial stress. These situations can be reversed with proper nutrition and by removing the child from unhealthy, stressful situations.
There are many diseases that can cause short stature in children. While some diseases display obvious results, others are much more subtle and leave parents perplexed and anxious. Dr. Joshua Smith, who is a pediatric endocrine specialist, can help identify conditions and provide treatment plans.
The following chart outlines some of the diseases that can cause short stature in children.
Children with familial or constitutional delay short stature are normal if they do not have any symptoms related to diseases that affect growth. In such cases, parents need not worry as their children will simply grow and enter puberty later than other children.
To diagnose short stature related to disease, Dr. Smith will perform a complete medical history and physical examination that will include measurements of the child’s height, weight, limbs, and trunk. He may also perform blood tests to determine if the cause of short stature is related to a hormone deficiency or genetic disorder.
Children who show symptoms of disease should contact Dr. Joshua Smith for further evaluation. These symptoms include:
The treatment options for short stature will depend on the cause. If there are signs of malnutrition, for example, the child may require nutritional supplements or treatment for a bowel disorder.
If it is determined that growth is delayed due to a hormonal problem, growth hormone treatment may be necessary. If a tumor is identified, surgery may be required. Only after a physical examination and testing will proper treatments be discussed with Dr. Smith.
If your child is experiencing any of the short stature symptoms described above, call Dr. Joshua Smith for an appointment, or fill out the form below.
Dr. Smith is the region’s only specialist in pediatric endocrinology and is specifically trained to properly diagnose and treat short stature.
The prognosis for children with short stature is excellent. Effective treatments, if necessary, are available, but remember, early intervention can prevent future problems in many cases.