Short stature is a height that is less than or equal to the third percentile for a person's age, sex, and race.

Short stature is generally broken down into three subgroups:

  • Familial short stature—parents are short
  • Constitutional delay and development—child is small for age but growing at normal rate, will reach an adult height similar to parents
  • Caused by chronic disease—such as malnutrition, genetic disorders, heart problems, and growth hormone deficiency

Expected Growth (Shadow) and Short Stature
Stunted Growth Child
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Familial and constitutional delay are due to the child's genetic make-up. If both parents are shorter than average, the child will most likely have short stature. The child may also have delayed puberty. This may cause temporary short stature, but normal height will eventually be reached.

Medical conditions that may contribute to short stature, include:

  • Malnourishment—most common cause of growth failure and is generally associated with poverty
  • Genetic disorders such as skeletal dysplasias, Turner syndrome, Down syndrome, and Silver Russell syndrome
  • Endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism or growth hormone deficiency
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Kidney diseases
  • Liver failure
  • Sickle cell anemia —a blood disorder
  • Intrauterine growth retardation or small for gestational age
  • Disorders of the stomach or intestines such as inflammatory bowel disease
  • Lung conditions such as severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Malabsorption due to cystic fibrosis or celiac disease
  • Use of SSRI medications—may be used to treat attention deficit disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder