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  • Writer's pictureDr. Yuksel Yurttas

Short Stature: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Are you or your child struggling with short stature? Feeling shorter than average compared to peers can be a common concern for many individuals and families. In this article, we'll explore the medical explanations behind short stature, including genetic factors and growth issues, and discuss the range of treatment options available to help individuals reach their full height potential.


height measurement examination

Diagnosis of Short Stature

Diagnosing short stature requires a thorough examination and evaluation of various factors, such as the child's weight, height, head size, medical and family history, and growth patterns. Regular pediatrician checkups or assessments at birth can help identify potential growth concerns.


To determine the underlying cause of short stature, the pediatrician may conduct various investigations, such as:


  • X-rays to check for bone growth issues

  • Insulin tolerance tests to check for insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) deficiency

  • Screening for thyroid-stimulating hormone to detect hypothyroidism

  • Tests to check for inflammatory bowel illness, anemia, or issues with the liver and kidneys

  • Enzyme deficiency testing through urine samples

  • Celiac disease screening through Immunoglobulin A and tissue transglutaminase tests

  • Additional imaging tests, such as head x-rays or MRIs, to identify issues with the pituitary gland or hypothalamus

  • Bone marrow or skin biopsies to diagnose diseases linked to short stature


The pediatrician will also inquire about the family's medical history and the child's growth patterns, such as the family's average height, any history of disease, the onset of puberty, and the child's diet. Be prepared to answer these questions to help the doctor determine the most appropriate treatment options.


Causes of Short Stature

Short stature can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, disease, and constitutional growth delay. The list provided below includes some of the most common causes, but it is important to note that there may be other rare conditions that can cause short stature.


Constitutional Growth Delay

This refers to children who mature more slowly than their peers. These children may hit puberty late and be undersized for their age, but will continue to develop height long after their peers have stopped growing. Eventually, they will catch up to their peers in height by maturity.


Genetics

A child's height can be influenced by the height of their parents and grandparents. Additionally, a child's desired height is only an estimate and some children may not reach their full potential height.


Diseases

Many illnesses can lead to abnormally small stature. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Endocrine conditions (e.g., growth hormone deficiency, hypothyroidism, Cushing's syndrome)

  • Chronic illnesses affecting the pituitary gland (e.g., childhood cancer or its treatments)

  • Gastrointestinal conditions (e.g., celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease)

  • Other illnesses (e.g., cardiovascular disease, renal disease, immunological disease)

  • Genetic disorders (e.g., Prader-Willi syndrome, Turner syndrome, Noonan syndrome)

  • Bone diseases and malnutrition (e.g., rickets, achondroplasia)

Additionally, difficulties during pregnancy or malnutrition can also reduce a child's height.


Treatment Options for Short Stature

Treatment options for short stature depend on the underlying cause. For children experiencing malnutrition, vitamin supplements or gastrointestinal disease treatments may be necessary. Hormonal imbalances may require growth hormone therapy, which the FDA has approved for treating several short-stature conditions.


It's important to note that not all children with short stature require treatment, especially if their short stature is due to genetic factors or constitutional growth delay without any underlying health issues. In such cases, monitoring the child's growth and overall health, as well as providing reassurance and support, is crucial.


Limb Lengthening Surgery as an Alternative Treatment

Stature lengthening, or limb lengthening, is a procedure that leverages the body’s regenerative capabilities to increase height. This surgical intervention extends the bones, resulting in potential height gains. For instance, up to 7 cm can be added to the lower leg (tibia), while the upper legs (femur) can see increases of 8-10 cm. A person may gain around 15 cm in total height by undergoing two procedures.


However, it’s crucial to understand that this procedure has certain age restrictions. It’s not suitable for those whose bones are still growing, typically individuals under 18, as it could disrupt natural growth. The optimal age for this procedure is between 18 and 50. People over 60 are generally advised against this surgery due to a higher risk of complications.



If you suspect that your child's growth is delayed, consult your pediatrician as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help your child achieve a healthy height. Identifying the underlying cause of slow growth will guide you in selecting the most appropriate treatment, which may include vitamin supplements, gastrointestinal disease treatments, or growth hormone therapy.


Remember, limb lengthening surgery, while beneficial in certain cases, is not advised for children under 18 years old when the goal is to address short stature. This is because their growth plates are still active, and the procedure could disrupt their natural growth process. However, it’s important to note that this surgery can be a viable option for treating congenital deformities or limb length discrepancies, even in younger patients.


For adults considering surgery to increase height, we offer a free consultation. This session provides an opportunity to discuss options, understand the procedure, and evaluate eligibility. For further information or to schedule a consultation, contact us via WhatsApp at +90 533 973 5289 or email at info@dryukselyurttas.com.

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