Physical growth of a child is another issue where parents tend to spend a lot of time and energy worrying about its adequacy. Physical growth in children is result of concerted optimal functioning of hormonal, nutritional and psychosocial milieu. If a child is growing well physically in stature, it reassures us about endocrine/hormonal and nutritional wellbeing. It is important that parents maintain health records of their children regularly and recording of height and weight is an integral and essential part of this.
How do I know if my child is shorter than normal?
This can be answered by comparing your child’s height to the height of other children who are the same age and sex. This comparison is done with help of standard charts that are available with your doctor. It is advisable to use Indian growth charts for our children. If your child is much shorter than other children of the same age and sex, doctors call it “short stature.”
If my child is short, does it mean he or she has a medical problem?
Not essentially. Children who are short may be healthy and may not have any medical problem. Reasons for short stature in these children can be:
1. One or both of their parents are short. If a child’s parents are short, chances are good that he or she will be short, too.
2. They are growing more slowly than usual i.e. they have “growth delay.” These children are short because they have their growth spurt delayed than other children. But these children will grow to a normal height as adults.
Some children who are short do have a medical problem. Some of these include:
1. Very low body weight
2. Long-term diseases affecting the digestive system, heart, lungs, kidneys, or blood.
3.“Growth-hormone deficiency”. Growth hormone is a hormone made in the pituitary gland in brain that helps children grow normally. Children with this condition have too little growth hormone in their body to have normal physical growth.
4. Other hormonal diseases like thyroid problem, pituitary abnormality etc.
5. Problems that babies are born with, for example abnormal genes
Will my child need some investigations?
Perhaps. First step is to confirm whether your child is short. A physical exam followed by measurements of height, weight, arm and leg length is the next step to diagnosis. These will be followed by questions about family history, which will give clues to whether the short stature could be the result of an inherited condition. If any of the above medical condition is suspected in your child then we might also do some blood tests to check for different conditions, including growth hormone deficiency and x-rays of 1 of your child’s hands and wrists – these X-rays to help tell how tall your child will grow.
Will my child need treatment?
Treatment of short stature depends on the underlying cause. For example, if the cause is a chronic disease such as diabetes or sickle cell anemia, these conditions should be treated first.
Is growth hormone treatment ever used for children without growth hormone
Not usually. That’s because growth hormone treatment doesn’t always make these children grow. The treatment costs a lot of money and is not easy. Children usually need to take an injection every day for many years.
Is there anything I can do on my own to help my child?
Yes. You can make sure your child gets enough food and eats a healthy diet. If you need help changing your child’s diet, ask the doctor or nurse. Help your child feel good about him or herself. Try to point out your child’s strengths and not focus too much on his or her height.
A leading endocrinologist and diabetologist from New Delhi. An alumnus of University College of Medical Sciences, Dr. Singla completed his MD (Medicine) from Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC). He went on to pursue DM (Endocrinology & Diabetes) from reputed AIIMS, Delhi.