Short Stature

Some children may grow more slowly than their peers.  Children who are shorter than average are said to have short stature.

Often it may be a feature inherited from the child's family.  In some cases, a child is short because of a medical condition that affects growth.

Short stature can be influenced by a child’s genes, hormones, or other medical problems such as poor diet. 

  • A child’s height is mostly controlled by family genes.  The height of the mother and father will largely affect how tall a child will grow.
  • Hormones, which are chemical messengers in the body, deliver signals that tell the body what to do.  Growth hormone helps to signal the cells in a child’s bones to grow.
  • Some chronic diseases, such as asthma, kidney problems, poorly controlled diabetes and diseases of the digestive tract, can have a negative effect on a child’s growth.   Also, poor weight gain as a result of children not eating a balanced diet with the right number of calories and protein may result in poor growth.
  • Congenital conditions, which are present at birth, can affect growth.  Babies who are smaller than expected at birth are more likely to remain small throughout life.
  • Syndromes such as Turner syndrome, Noonan syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome are associated with short stature and growth problems.
  • Short children who do not fit into the other categories are likely normal, but may be diagnosed with idiopathic short stature. This diagnosis is made when no medical cause can be found and the child’s final adult height is predicted to be very short. This final height prediction for girls would be under 5 feet tall and boys under 5 feet 4 inches.

Children should visit their primary healthcare provider regularly.  A child’s height and weight should be measured and marked on the child’s growth chart as part of every visit. 

Any child whose height is out of the normal range for his or her age or who stops growing should be checked by a healthcare provider.  Your healthcare provider may refer your child to see a pediatric endocrinologist who will discuss with you the possible causes for your child’s slow growth. 

Most children do not need treatment for short stature. 

Treatment for short stature depends on the results of testing. If a growth problem is identified, treatment with growth hormone may be prescribed.  Growth hormone is given as a daily shot.  This would be prescribed and monitored by a pediatric endocrinologist. 

Continued follow-up with the specialist will be scheduled for every four to six months if growth hormone is prescribed.

Call your healthcare provider if your child is not keeping up with his or her expected growth.


Last Updated 10/2013