Short Stature

What is short stature?

Short stature is a general term used to describe a condition in which a child or a teen's height is well below the average height of his or her peers. Short stature typically means that a person's height is below that of the shortest 3 percent to 5 percent of children of the same age and sex. Short stature could be idiopathic (with no known cause), an inherited trait or a symptom of one of a number of underlying disorders. Many disorders can cause short stature, including achondroplasia, hormone deficiency, delayed puberty, Cushing’s disease, malnutrition, malabsorption disorders, such as celiac disease, and others. A child must be examined by a health care provider if short stature is suspected or present. 


Short stature does not cause any symptoms other than the obvious finding of short height. If there is an underlying disorder present, there may be symptoms related to that condition. 


A physical exam followed by measurement of height, weight, arm and leg length are the first steps to diagnosis. These will be followed by questions about family history, which will give clues to whether the short stature could be the result of an inherited condition. The child’s medical and physical history will be detailed as well. X-rays and blood tests are typically ordered to determine whether the short stature is caused by mere growth delay or a more complex condition.


Treatment of short stature depends on the underlying cause. For example, if the cause is a chronic disease, such as diabetes or sickle cell anemia, these conditions should be treated first.

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