Some children may grow more slowly than their peers. Children who are shorter than average are said to have short stature. Short stature is not a disease. Often, it may just be a trait that a child got from his or her family.
Short families tend to have short children. Tall families tend to have tall children. But in some cases, a child is short because of a medical condition that affects growth. Medical conditions may either slow or stop growth in a child. If a medical condition is the cause of slow growth, there are medicines that may help.
If your child is shorter than average, he or she may need to see an endocrinologist. This doctor is a specialist who is trained to diagnose and treat children with growth disorders. The endocrinologist will evaluate your child to find the cause of your child’s slow or unusual growth.
Growing is a process that involves many factors, such as diet, health, exercise, and emotional stress. But the two main factors are family genes and hormones.
A child’s height is mostly controlled by family genes. Genes are passed down from generation to generation. They control traits, such as hair color or eye color. A child receives height genes from his or her birth parents. Likewise, each parent gets height genes from his or her parents, and so on. In general, family genes determine the range for how tall a child may be. If the heights of family members are within a certain range, the child’s adult height tends to be in that range. For example, children of shorter families may be short as adults. It is possible for a child of short parents to grow tall, or a child of tall parents to be short.
Along with other hormones, growth hormone is important for a child’s growth. The pituitary gland sends growth hormone into the body, where it causes bone growth. Growth hormone helps the cells in a child’s bones to grow and divide. Growth in the bones, especially the spine and the leg bones, makes a child taller.
When it comes to height in children, there is a wide range of what is normal. Many children are short for their age, but only a few may have a medical issue that causes them to be short. Regular visits to a doctor are important to keep track of your child’s growth. If growth is slower than normal or stops, an endocrinologist should evaluate it. The endocrinologist will check to see if the pattern of growth is unusual and then determine a diagnosis.
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