Short stature

A height significantly below the normal range for a person’s age. Short stature in children is often due to hereditary factors or slow bone growth. In most cases, growth eventually speeds up, resulting in normal adult height. Less commonly, it is due to a specific disorder such as bone disease (as in untreated rickets or achondroplasia) or certain hormonal disorders such as growth hormone deficiency and hypothyroidism. Emotional deprivation, chronic malnutrition and malabsorption can also limit growth. Certain chromosomal disorders cause short stature; stunting occurs in Down’s syndrome, and the pubertal growth spurt is absent in Turner’s syndrome. Other causes of restricted growth in children include prolonged use of corticosteroids and anticancer drugs. Severe untreated respiratory disease or congenital heart disease can also cause short stature. An affected child’s growth rate is monitored by regular measurement of height. X-rays and blood tests may help identify an underlying cause, which will then be treated. Growth hormone is given for hormone deficiency, and also to treat short stature due to disorders such as Turner’s syndrome. (See also growth, childhood.)


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