Short Stature

Some children may grow slower than their peers. 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.

Cause

Short stature can be affected by a child’s genes, hormones, poor nutrition, or other medical problems.

  • 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 may result in poor growth.
  • Conditions 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.
  • Children with short stature who do not fit into the other categories 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.

Symptoms

Children should visit their primary care 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 or who stops growing may be referred to see a pediatric endocrinologist who will discuss with you the possible causes for your child’s slow growth.

Treatment

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.

When to Call the Doctor

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

Last Updated 05/2019

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Endocrinology specialists at Cincinnati Children's are among the nation’s best at diagnosing and treating endocrine disorders.

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