Short stature is a height that's shorter than almost all other children of the same age and sex. Short stature doesn't always mean there's a problem. It's just a term doctors use when your child is shorter than all but 3% of children the same age and sex.
Some short children are healthy but are just small or are taking longer to reach their full height
Sometimes, children don't have enough growth hormone (growth hormone deficiency)
Sometimes, children who have a serious illness do not grow normally
If children don't have enough growth hormone, doctors give growth hormone shots
Short stature is not the same thing as dwarfism, which is also called osteochondrodysplasia Osteochondrodysplasias Osteochondrodysplasias are a group of rare hereditary disorders of connective tissue, bone, or cartilage that cause the skeleton to develop abnormally. In osteochondrodysplasias, the growth... read more . Children with dwarfism have a genetic disorder that causes abnormal growth and development of bone and cartilage in addition to short stature.
Often there's no specific cause for being short as a child, particularly when other people in the family are short or took a long time to reach their full height.
Specific causes include:
Growth hormone is a chemical messenger made in the pituitary gland in your brain. It signals all the tissues in your body to grow and develop. Most of the time, doctors don't know why a child doesn't have enough growth hormone. But sometimes it's caused by another health problem such as:
Brain tumor or injury
Infection, such as meningitis Bacterial Meningitis Meningitis is an infection of the thin layer of tissue that covers your brain and spinal cord. This layer of tissue is called the meninges. In bacterial meningitis, infection of the meninges... read more and tuberculosis Tuberculosis (TB) Tuberculosis (TB) is a common, serious infection caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB affects millions of people worldwide, particularly in developing countries TB is spread... read more
To find out what is causing your child's short stature, doctors may do:
CT scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more or MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more of the head
Doctors do CT or MRI of the head to look for tumors or other problems with the gland that makes growth hormone (the pituitary gland Overview of the Pituitary Gland The pituitary gland is a pea-sized bit of tissue at the bottom of your brain. Glands are organs that make and release hormones into your blood. Hormones are chemicals that stimulate other cells... read more ).
Doctors treat short stature in children due to low levels of growth hormone using:
Growth hormone is only effective if given before the bones stop growing. It's only given to children with growth hormone deficiency.
If your child has a brain tumor, doctors may do surgery to remove it.