Short stature

What is short stature?

Short stature is when a person’s height is significantly below the average for someone of that age, gender or ethnicity. While it can apply to adults, the term more commonly refers to children and it is important for parents to monitor their child’s growth patterns. If parents have any concerns, they should visit a paediatrician to see if there is a problem in the child’s growth development. 

What are the causes of short stature?

There are three overall reasons for short stature, which include:

Constitutional growth delay – where some children develop later than others and are ‘late bloomers.’ The children are small for their age and enter puberty late, however, they will continue to grow and catch up with their friends by adulthood.
Genetics – if one or both parents are short, there is a possibility that their child will be short too.
Disease – a number of diseases may cause a short stature. These are: 

  • Endocrine diseases – including hormone deficiency, hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease.
  • Chronic diseases – such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, kidney problems and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Genetic conditions – Down syndrome, Turner syndrome and William’s syndrome.
  • Bone and skeletal diseases – such as rickets or achondroplasia.
  • Problems during pregnancy can also affect a child’s height, as well as malnutrition.

What are the symptoms of short stature?

Short children tend to have short parents. Children with familial short stature do not have any symptoms that are related to any diseases that affect their growth and they have normal growth spurts and tend to enter puberty at a normal age. The child will grow to the height of their short parents.

Children with constitutional growth delay also do not have any disease but enter puberty later than their peers. They do catch up to their peers when they reach adult height, which is a normal and comparable height to their parents.

The symptoms that of short stature may include:

  • The child has stopped growing or is growing slower than to be expected (less than 4cm each year in the pre-puberty child of school age)
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Malnutrition and/or a loss of appetite
  • Delayed puberty 

Treatment of short stature

In the event of a health problem, it is necessary to treat and regulate the disease in question for better health of the child. In case of a deficiency in the growth hormone levels, a treatment of this hormone may be necessary. In case it is not associated with any health problem, it is important for parents to support their child and not let this aspect undermine their self-esteem and confidence.


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