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Dwarfism (or conditions of short stature) refers to a group of conditions characterised by shorter than normal skeletal growth. This shortness can be manifested in the arms and legs or trunk.

There are over 100 conditions that cause abnormal skeletal growth and dwarfism. Achondroplasia is the most common type of short-limb dwarfism, occurring in around one in 25,000 children with both sexes at equal risk. This type of skeletal dysplasia (abnormal skeletal growth) is usually diagnosed at birth. This page presents information focussed on achondroplasia, but it may also apply to other conditions.

Most children born with achondroplasia have average-sized parents. Children with achondroplasia may experience delay developing motor skills, such as controlling the movements of the head, but their intellectual development is normal.

The average final height for a person with achondroplasia is 130 cm for men and 125 cm for women. Short-statured people lead normal, fulfilled lives. Achieving higher levels of education and career and personal ambitions is not limited by stature.

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Our medical consultants will advise you on the best choice for dwarfism in one of our leading hospitals. We will evaluate your current condition, expectations and other related factors, and offer you the most suitable option, respecting your health and the individual needs of your body and lifestyle. Your health is unique and so should be your solution.

Treatment of Dwarfism

The goal of treatment is to maximize functioning and independence. Most dwarfism treatments don’t increase stature but may correct or relieve problems caused by complications.

Surgical treatments

Surgical procedures that may correct problems in people with disproportionate dwarfism include:

  • Correcting the direction in which bones are growing
  • Stabilizing and correcting the shape of the spine
  • Increasing the size of the opening in bones of the spine (vertebrae) to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord
  • Placing a shunt to remove excess fluid around the brain (hydrocephalus), if it occurs

Hormone therapy

For individuals with dwarfism due to growth hormone deficiency, treatment with injections of a synthetic version of the hormone may increase final height. In most cases, children receive daily injections for several years until they reach a maximum adult height — often within the average adult range for their family.

Treatment may continue throughout the teen years and early adulthood to ensure adult maturation, such as appropriate gain in muscle or fat. Some individuals may need lifelong therapy. The treatment may be supplemented with other related hormones if they are also deficient.

Treatment for girls with Turner syndrome also requires estrogen and related hormone therapy in order for them to begin puberty and achieve adult sexual development. Estrogen replacement therapy usually continues throughout life until women with Turner syndrome reach the average age of menopause.

Growth hormone supplementation for children with achondroplasia does not increase final adult height.

Ongoing health care

Regular checkups and ongoing care by a doctor familiar with dwarfism can improve quality of life. Because of the range of symptoms and complications, treatments are tailored to address problems as they occur, such as assessment and treatment for ear infections, spinal stenosis or sleep apnea.

Adults with dwarfism should continue to be monitored and treated for problems that occur throughout life.

Limb lengthening

Some people with dwarfism choose to undergo surgery called extended limb lengthening. This procedure is controversial for many people with dwarfism because, as with all surgeries, there are risks. Waiting to decide about limb lengthening until the person with dwarfism is old enough to participate in the decision is recommended because of the emotional and physical stress involved with multiple procedures.

Complications of Dwarfism