What is Dwarfism?
Dwarfism is characterized by short stature. This means an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches or under, for children, this means being below the height growth curve for their age, which would be less than the 2nd percentile.
Dwarfism can and most often does happen in families where both parents are of average height. It can be caused by any one of more than 400 conditions. Most of these are genetic and classified as skeletal dysplasias. The most common type of dwarfism is achondroplasia (ay-kon-dreh-PLAY-zyuh).
Little people are very capable, they go to school, work, drive cars, marry, and raise children, just like their average-size peers.
What Causes Dwarfism?
Most types of dwarfism are caused by a genetic change (mutation) in the egg or sperm cells before conception. Others happen because of genetic changes inherited from one or both parents. Depending on the type of dwarfism, two average-size parents can have a child with short stature. It’s also possible for parents who are little people to have an average-size child. What makes a gene mutate is not yet well understood. The change seems to be random and unpreventable in pregnancy.
What Are the Types of Dwarfism?
Everyone with dwarfism is short, but different types of dwarfism have different causes and different physical traits. Most types of dwarfism are skeletal dysplasias (diss-PLAY-zhee-uhs). There are more than 400 different types of these unusual cartilage and bone growth conditions.
How Is Dwarfism Diagnosed?
Doctors can diagnose some types of dwarfism earlier in pregnancy. Others aren’t diagnosed until the first few months or years of life, when a child’s growth slows.
If a child may have dwarfism caused by a skeletal dysplasia, X-rays after birth can see if and how the bones are shaped differently. Also, doctor sometimes use genetic testing before or after birth to confirm the diagnosis.
Most of the complications that happen in people with dwarfism are physical, not intellectual. In fact, little people often find clever ways to do things in the average-size world. They also interact with people unfamiliar with dwarfism who make assumptions about it. While that can be tough and awkward at times, it’s also an opportunity to enlighten people who don’t know much about dwarfism.
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