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Dwarfism: causes, symptoms and associated disorders

Dwarfism: causes, symptoms and associated disorders

June 11, 2024

The process by which human beings pass from the prenatal stage to adulthood is complex and full of possible complications. There are, for example, numerous genetic diseases that affect the height and that can worsen to a significant degree the quality of life of the person if the appropriate measures are not taken. The dwarfism, for example, is one of these anomalies .

People who exhibit dwarfism in any of its variants can not only suffer the consequences of having to interact with spaces and architectures that are not designed for them, but also usually present some complications related to the movement and use of the joints and, on the other hand, they have a greater risk of feeling psychological discomfort related to self-esteem and self-concept.

Let's see what this anomaly consists of.

What is dwarfism?

The dwarfism is an alteration in the stature of the person, which is well below the average. That is, taking as a reference the average height in each population group divided by sexes, the person with dwarfism does not reach the minimum marked by three standard deviations from the mean .

Why is not it a disease

The dwarfism is not in itself a disease or disorder, but the expression of certain developmental disorders that can cause diseases to appear in parallel with slow or limited growth.

Strictly speaking, people with dwarfism are characterized only by presenting a much lower height than statistical normality, which in itself does not necessarily lead to significant health problems.

In practice, however, this does entail problems, especially as regards the weight distribution and its effect on the joints , since many of the individuals with this alteration are not only lower than normal but their proportions are also very different from those of an adult without dwarfism.

For example, in many cases the head is proportionally very large (macrocephaly) and the extremities are very short, which means that to maintain an upright position the chest is tilted forward and the head is tilted backwards to maintain a stable center of gravity . This produces problems with the passage of time.

However, the characteristics that people with dwarfism present vary greatly depending on the cause of this alteration.

The distinction between short stature and dwarfism

Usually, this "height threshold" that serves to define where dwarfism begins is approximately 140 cm in men and 160 cm in women. Although this criterion is nuanced, since it also depends on the height of the parents, it is understood that even in very low persons the normal size is that the offspring tend to approach statistical normality , a phenomenon known as regression to the mean.

In addition, it is possible to take as a reference other measurements to determine cases of dwarfism. For example, the presence of macrocephaly (Head size greater than expected in proportion to what the rest of the body occupies) is associated with many cases of this anomaly, although it can also appear in people of normal height.

In cases in which the person is unusually low but no disease associated with this characteristic or a specific cause is found and the body proportions are normal, it is considered that they are not examples of dwarfism and they are called "idiopathic short stature" , assuming that they are the simple expression of the inherited genes.

Types of dwarfing according to the causes

As we have seen, dwarfism is an anomaly derived from the expression of certain diseases that they do not have to resemble each other in their origin .

The most common diseases that cause the appearance of dwarfism are the following:


This sickness produces about 70% of cases of dwarfism . It is genetically rooted and expressed before birth, causing the extremities and thorax not to grow as much as the head because of abnormalities in the formation of cartilage.

Celiac Disease

It has been seen that the disease that produces problems in cases where gluten is ingested It is also associated with the appearance of dwarfism as one of its symptoms.

Growth hormone problems

In this type of dwarfism the cause lies in a deficit secretion of growth hormone from the pituitary gland of the brain. These cases can be corrected by contributing more of this substance artificially.


A deficiency in the development of the bones due to the problems when mineralizing these structures with sufficient amounts of phosphorus and calcium. In this disease bones are weak and easily broken, in addition to not reaching the expected size .

Possible psychological interventions

People with dwarfism do not have to develop psychological problems, but their problems of social fit and the possible appearance of discomfort related to the symptoms of associated diseases can make them a potentially vulnerable population group .

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