Dwarfism is a medical condition that causes a person to grow more slowly than usual or with delayed growth. This condition either occurs as disproportionate dwarfism, where the individual has one or more larger or smaller parts of their body, and proportionate dwarfism where the body is normally proportioned, but is unusually small. Dwarfism is generally defined as a full grown height of less than 147 cm (58 inches). People suffering from this condition are generally referred to as a dwarf, little person or person of short stature. The term midget has also been used, but is usually considered to be offensive. If you have wondered what causes this condition, read on to find out.
What causes dwarfism?
Dwarfism can be caused by more than 200 different conditions, but there are two causes that are most commonly seen in humans. The first main cause is achondroplasia, which accounts for about 70% of drawfism cases. Achondroplasia is a genetic condition that causes a bone growth inhibitor, known as fibroblast growth factor receptor 3, to be overly aggressive and this restricts bone growth.
The second most common cause is a deficiency in growth hormone (somatotropin). A lack of this hormone will cause halted or stunted growth and can delay the onset of puberty by a few years or even prevent puberty from occurring at all. The lack of growth hormone can be caused by a variety of underlying factors such as genetic mutations, damage to the gland that produces the hormone (pituitary gland), poor nutrition/malnutrition and even stress!
Other causes of dwarfism are also known, but they are far less common and are not regularly seen.
Diagnosis and management
This condition is easily diagnosed due to visible symptoms and by tracking growth. However, genetic testing is becoming more common. Many causes of dwarfism are impossible to prevent and can only be managed. However, growth hormone deficiency can be corrected with injections of the hormone.