Short Stature

Short stature is the medical term for when a child's height is significantly below average for age, sex, race, or family.

CAUSES

Short stature is often not a sign or symptom of a medical problem. Causes of short stature fall into one of several types:

  • Constitutional delay of growth and maturation, a slow growth pattern that often runs in the family. There is usually a delay in growth during puberty. There is also a delay in puberty. However, these children often keep growing after their peers stop growing. Normal height is reached.

  • Familial short stature. In this situation, children have short parents. They grow at a normal rate and reach puberty at a normal age. They become short adults with heights that reflect that of their parents.

  • Idiopathic short stature (ISS). Idiopathic means we don't know the cause. These children become short adults.

  • Chronic disease – several diseases can cause short stature. There are usually other symptoms and physical signs.

Testing may be needed to find the cause. Tests done may include:

  • A bone age x-ray that tells us how your child's bones are maturing.

  • Blood tests to check:

  • How well your child's organs are working.

  • For anemia.

  • Hormone levels.

  • For genetic or other types of issues.

  • Urine tests to look for infection and clues to how well the kidneys are working.

  • Repeat measurements of height and weight.

TREATMENT

Treatment for short stature depends on the cause.

  • Growth hormone (a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that is now available as a medicine) is appropriate for some cases of short stature. Your child's caregiver can discuss this with you.

  • Counseling can help if your child is teased about being short. Teasing can make a child feel ashamed.

  • In constitutional short stature, sometimes sex hormones are given to bring about changes that happen during puberty. This is only considered if the child is very upset emotionally by a lack of physical development. Sex hormones can speed up growth in height as well. They have no effect on the ultimate adult height.

  • If short stature is due to a disease, treatment of the disease (if available) may improve a child's growth.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Offer your child a well-balanced diet.

  • Keep the follow-up appointments with your child's caregiver.

  • Be understanding and listen carefully to your child's concerns about being short.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your child has weight loss.

  • Your child has a loss of hunger (appetite).

  • Your child avoids school or social situations because of being short.

  • Your child has new, unexplained symptoms.