Diseases & Conditions
Short stature is height below normal for the child's age (according to standard charts for age and height).
The pituitary gland regulates the amount of growth hormone produced, which is an important factor in determining stature. If the pituitary gland produces too little growth hormone, abnormally slow growth and short stature with normal proportions (pituitary dwarfism) can result. Most short children, however, have normally functioning pituitary glands and are short because their growth spurt is late or their parents are relatively short. Chronic illnesses that affect the heart, lungs, kidneys, or intestine can also result in short stature. Abnormalities in the bone can also lead to very short stature.
Pituitary dwarfism is treated with growth hormone. Growth hormone is also used sometimes to increase height in children who have short stature but normally functioning pituitary glands, but this use is controversial. Some parents feel that short stature is a disorder, but most doctors do not approve of the use of growth hormone in these children. Regardless of the cause of short stature, pituitary hormone is effective only if given before the growth plates in the long bones become inactive. X-rays can help determine whether the growth plates are inactive.
Last full review/revision February 2003
Source: The Merck Manual Home Edition