Dwarfism is a small stature caused by a medical or hereditary disorder. An adult height of 4 feet 10 inches (147 cm) or below is commonly regarded as dwarfism. Among adults with dwarfism, the typical height is 4 feet (122 cm). Dwarfism is a result of several different medical disorders.

Dwarfism can be broadly categorized into two categories −

  • Dwarfism that is out of proportion. Certain body portions are tiny while others are average or larger than normal if there is an imbalance in body size. Disproportionate dwarfism-causing diseases prevent bone growth.

  • Moderate dwarfism. When all of the body's components are equally little and appear to be proportional to a body of ordinary height, the body is said to be proportionately small.

Birth defects or illnesses that manifest in infancy restrict general growth and development.

Instead of "dwarf" or "dwarfism," some individuals prefer the terms "low stature" or "small people." So, it's crucial to respect the preferences of someone with this disease. Familial low stature, which is regarded as a normal variation with normal bone growth, is excluded from the category of short stature diseases.

Dwarfism: Causes

Achondroplasia affects around 80% of newborns whose parents are of average height. One mutant copy of the disorder-related gene and one normal copy of the gene were given to an individual with achondroplasia who had two average-sized parents. Either a mutant or normal copy of the disease may be passed on to a person's offspring.

Turner Disease

Only girls and women are afflicted with Turner syndrome, which is caused by a sex chromosome (the X chromosome) being absent or partially absent. Each parent gives an X chromosome to a girl. One rather than two completely functional copies of the female sex chromosome are present in a girl with Turner syndrome.

Dwarfism: Symptoms

The patient with dwarfism mainly presents with the following symptoms −

Asymmetrical Dwarfism

The majority of persons with dwarfism suffer from diseases that result in abnormally small heights. Typically, this denotes that a person has an average-sized trunk and short limbs, while it is possible for certain individuals to have an extremely short torso and small (yet proportionally huge) limbs. The skull is excessively big relative to the body in several illnesses.

Most of the individuals with disproportionate dwarfism have average mental abilities. Rare outliers typically have a secondary cause, such as too much fluid surrounding the brain (hydrocephalus). The most frequent cause of dwarfism is achondroplasia, a condition that results in abnormally small heights. Typically, this condition has the following effects −

  • A typical-sized trunk

  • Short arms and legs, with upper arms and upper legs, in particular, being short.

  • The space between the middle and ring fingers is frequently broad on short fingers.

  • Limited elbow range of motion

  • A head that is excessively big, with a high forehead and a flattened nose bridge

  • Development of bent legs throughout the time

  • The gradual emergence of a swaying lower back

  • Adults often stand 4 feet tall (122 cm)

Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital, an uncommon condition, is another factor that contributes to disproportionate dwarfism (SEDC). Signs could be −

  • Very little trunk

  • A brief neck

  • Reduced arm and leg length

  • Sizeable hands and feet

  • Rounded, wide chest

  • Little flattening of cheekbones

  • Opening in the mouth's roof (cleft palate)

  • Thighbones that bend inward due to hip abnormalities

  • A foot that is crooked or misshapen

  • Stability issues with the neck bones

  • Upper spine gradually curving in a hunching motion

  • The gradual emergence of a swaying lower back

  • Issues with hearing and vision

  • Issues with joint mobility and arthritis

  • Adults often stand between 3 feet (91 cm) to a little over 4 feet tall (122 cm)

  • Equivalent dwarfism

Medical disorders that restrict general growth and development that are present at birth or first manifest in early infancy can cause proportionate dwarfism. Therefore even though the head, trunk, and limbs are all little, they are all in proportion to one another. Several of these illnesses cause one or more bodily systems to develop improperly because they impair overall growth.

A somewhat prevalent cause of proportional dwarfism is a growth hormone deficit. It takes place when the pituitary gland is unable to generate enough growth hormone, which is necessary for healthy childhood growth. Symptoms include −

  • A height that is below the median for children of that age

  • Slower growth than anticipated for age

  • Delayed or nonexistent sexual development while an adolescent

Dwarfism: Risk Factors

Families with two parents who are of normal height tend to experience dwarfism more frequently. Dwarfism can be brought on by more than 300 different diseases. The most typical kind of dwarfism is achondroplasia. From 1 in 15,000 to 1 in 40,000 persons have the genetic disorder achondroplasia.

Dwarfism: Diagnosis

The diagnosis of dwarfism is mainly done based on history and some of the tests may be required for confirmation and to rule out underlying causes −

  • Because specific anomalies of the skull and bones can suggest which condition your kid may have, your doctor may request imaging tests like X-rays.

  • DNA analysis

  • If your family's typical height range includes small stature, your physician may ask about the stature of your siblings, parents, grandparents, or other family members.

  • Test for hormones

Dwarfism: Treatment

The treatment is based on the severity of the symptoms. Your doctor may advise conservative or surgical treatment.

Conservative Treatment

Injections of a synthetic version of the hormone may raise the ultimate height in those with dwarfism brought on by a lack of growth hormone. The majority of the time, children are given daily injections for several years until they achieve their maximal adult height, which is frequently within the range of the average adult in their family.

Surgical Treatment

Surgical treatment may be required in severe cases which include −

  • Reversing the direction of bone resorption

  • Preserving and enhancing the spine's natural form

  • To relieve pressure on the spinal cord, vertebrae openings are enlarged.

  • If hydrocephalus (excess fluid surrounding the brain) arises, placing a shunt to drain it

Dwarfism: Prevention

Random genetic alterations take place. A parent cannot stop this alteration from occurring before, during, or after pregnancy. The likelihood of having a kid with dwarfism can be calculated with the assistance of a genetic counselor. A kid with small stature might be born to two parents of typical height, depending on the form of dwarfism.


To identify abnormal growth rates and offer patient-centered therapies, pediatricians must be vigilant. These children need ongoing observation, recording in the development charts, and medical professionals' discretion about the use of growth hormone treatment. The outcomes are improved by regular counseling sessions that educate the patient and their families. Children who are experiencing psychosocial pressures, eating disorders, or other mental diseases may require intervention from a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha


Updated on: 17-Apr-2023


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