Dwarfism in Kids - Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Dwarfism in Children

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
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Dwarfism is a genetic condition, hence it cannot be prevented. The problem with this condition is that it will not be obvious or visible until the person attains a particular age. However, there are certain things you can do to improve the condition of your child.

What is Dwarfism?

Dwarfism or short stature is defined as a height ≥2 standard deviations below mean for the age and sex of a child (or less than 3rd percentile). Dwarfism is a condition in which a child does not grow up to the height of an average human and remains shorter than the height of 4’10’’. The condition is genetic, so preventing it is not possible. People affected by this condition have an average height of 4 feet. Usually, ‘little person’ or ‘short stature’ is preferred to refer to these people instead of ‘dwarf’.

Types of Dwarfism

Dwarfism can be generally divided into two types, which are as follows:

1. Proportionate Dwarfism

This type of dwarfism usually occurs as a result of a hormone deficiency in children. The body parts of the child are proportionate to each other, which mean that the child will look normal except for his short stature. His head and limbs will be in the right proportion. Proportionate dwarfism can be treated using hormone injections in a regular and controlled manner, as it occurs due to hormone deficiency.

2. Disproportionate Dwarfism

Disproportionate dwarfism is a common type of dwarfism and is visible as the body parts are not proportionate to each other. In most cases, dwarfism is a result of a condition called achondroplasia, this results in the length of the limbs being markedly shorter, but the length of the trunk is not affected much. Therefore, it is easily visible in the child. The head of the affected child is also much larger compared to his body.

Causes of Dwarfism in Kids

There are many causes of dwarfism in kids of which few are mentioned below:

1. Achondroplasia

As mentioned above, achondroplasia is a condition that occurs as a result of genetic abnormalities in children. Around 80% of the children affected by this disorder may exhibit dwarfism, so it can be said that this condition causes dwarfism in children. There is one unaffected and one mutated gene associated with this condition, which is the most common reason for dwarfism in children.

2. Chromosomal Abnormalities

Genetic abnormality is characterised by faulty chromosomes, and cannot be prevented in any manner. Dwarfism is one such abnormality, where the parents may have two normal genes, but the baby may end up with a short stature anyway.

3. Turner Syndrome

A leading cause of dwarfism in females, it occurs as a result of the child missing part of an X chromosome which she is supposed to be receiving. While males have X and Y chromosomes, females have two X chromosomes; missing an X entirely or even partially can result in dwarfism in the child.

4. Growth Hormone Deficiency

Children who have dwarfism due to growth hormone deficiency exhibit proportionate dwarfism, which means that the child will not have a large torso or head compared to the rest of his body; he will just look like he is small in terms of stature. This dwarfism can be combated with hormone injections regularly while growing up, but the reasons as to why it occurs have not been found yet.

Growth Hormone Deficiency

5. Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland helps in the regulation of growth hormones, so if it does not produce enough hormones from a young age, the result can be dwarfism in the baby. This type of dwarfism comes with a few symptoms, like low energy, puffy facial features and cognitive problems in the child.

6. Intrauterine Growth Retardation

Another common cause of proportionate dwarfism in children, this occurs in the womb of the mother itself. The baby may grow up for the full term in the womb but is smaller than the average size.

Symptoms of Dwarfism

There are a few signs of dwarfism in babies, which can give you an idea as to whether your child is affected by this condition or not.

  • The limbs are considerably shorter and disproportionate.
  • Elbows have limited mobility.
  • Fingers are short.
  • There is a wide separation between the ring and middle finger.
  • The legs are bowed.
  • Lower back develops to be swayed.
  • The head is disproportionately large compared to the body.
  • The forehead is also large.
  • The nose is flattened at the bridge.
  • There are deformities in the hip of the child.
  • The foot has a twisted appearance.
  • Cheekbones are flattened.
  • The neck is short.
  • The spine is curved near the shoulders, resulting in hunching.
  • The growth rate is slow.
  • Sexual development is delayed.

Symptoms of Dwarfism

How to Diagnose Dwarfism

Diagnosis of dwarfism in the child can be done right at the time of birth, or even through ultrasonography during pregnancy. A few symptoms that give it away include protruding jaw and teeth, which are not aligned and there is a curvature in the shape of the spine.

In the case of dwarfism due to lack of growth hormones, it will not be visible to the child until he is around 2 to 3 years of age. Some other giveaway symptoms of this condition include reduced immunity and delayed motor skills in the child. Intelligence can also be impaired, and the baby may even walk with a slight gait.

What are the Possible Complications Associated With Dwarfism?

Sometimes, there are a few complications associated with dwarfism, which are as follows:

  • Arthritis
  • Bowed legs
  • Spinal Stenosis (pressure on the spinal cord)
  • The spinal pressure at the base of the skull
  • Excess brain fluid
  • Delay in the development of motor skills
  • Sleep apnea
  • Weight gain placing stress on the joints

How to Treat Dwarfism in Children

While there is no cure or prevention for dwarfism, there are a few things that parents can do in order to improve the condition of their children.

1. Orthotic Treatment

Using physical therapy and orthotics (custom devices which help you improve the function and balance of the foot), you can reduce the pain your child has to go through in order to move. Most of the pain can be reduced, with the help of therapy.

2. Hormone Therapy

This helps if the cause of dwarfism is the lack of growth hormones. The child may not be cured of the abnormality completely, but he can grow up close to the average height with the help of regular hormone injections from a young age.

3. Surgical Options

Surgery can also help correct a range of problems in the child, including the direction of bone growth, pressure on the base of the skull and also on the spinal cord, and even pressure on the brain due to excess cerebrospinal fluid.

How Should Parents Help a Dwarf Child?

There are ways that as parents you should try to help a dwarf child grow up normally, in spite of the condition.

  • Teach your child to be not affected by the negative reactions of people around him.
  • Encourage him to have self-esteem, and make him understand that he is no different from anyone out there.
  • Teach him to enjoy life to the fullest, even if he is affected by this condition.
  • Tell him that even after having a short stature, his success levels won’t be affected.
  • Appreciate him for the things he does well.
  • Lastly, love your baby, no matter what.

Dwarfism is hard to live with, as it is easily evident from a young age. Parents need to support their child so that they grow up proudly and with no confidence issues. Remember that dwarfism is not something that can affect the way your child thinks and does things, so always love him for what he is.

Also Read: Progeria- Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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