Symptoms and Signs of Short Stature in Children

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 11/8/2021

Doctor's Notes on Short Stature in Children

Short stature describes height significantly below the average height for a child’s age, sex, racial group, or family. It is not the same as growth failure, which is a medical condition that may result in short stature. Short stature may or may not be caused by a medical condition; it is often a normal variant. Short parents often have short children and there are no health problems present. 

Symptoms that may indicate a medical condition is causing short stature in children include

  • the child stops growing or is growing slower than expected (less than 4 cm, or 2 in, each year in the pre-pubertal child of elementary school age);
  • weight loss or gain (more than 5 pounds in a month), poor nutrition/loss of appetite, or
  • delayed puberty (no breast development by age 14 or absent menstrual spotting by age 15 for a girl or absent enlargement of the testes by age 14 for a boy).

What Is the Treatment for Short Stature in Children?

The treatment for short stature in children depends on the cause. Treatment of the underlying cause can improve the child’s stature but may not completely fix the growth failure completely.

The most common causes and treatments for short stature in children include:

  • Malnutrition 
    • Improve nutrition
    • Improve access to nutritious foods
    • Nutritional counseling
    • Improve appetite with appetite stimulants 
  • Genetic syndromes
    • May need orthopedic surgical procedures
    • Treated with hormones 
      • Growth hormone
      • Testosterone
  • Late bloomer children 
    • Hormones given to induce puberty and “growth spurt”
      • Testosterone

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.