Growth disorders can have many causes. Causes usually fall into one of the following groups:
Most of these disorders that can cause growth problems are idiopathic. This means their cause is not known.
Risk factors for growth problems include:
Most growth problems are noticed when the child appears smaller than his or her classmates, or when growth slows over several months. One main sign of a growth problem is when a child grows less than 3.5 cm (about 1.4 inches) a year after his or her 3rd birthday. In other cases, a baby may be abnormally small for his or her gestational age at birth.
Growth problems may be part of other problems or health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
In some cases a growth problem may be diagnosed at birth, when a baby is abnormally small for his or her gestational age. In other cases, a growth problem may be diagnosed when a child's growth is checked during regular exams.
Diagnosis of a growth disorder must be made by your child's healthcare provider. He or she may work with a pediatric specialist. The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your family’s health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child's health and growth may be checked over several months.
Your child may also have tests, such as:
Many conditions that cause growth problems can be managed or corrected with medical treatment. Treatment for growth problems will be based on:
Children who are shorter or taller than their peers may have poor self-esteem or depression. It’s important to talk about these problems with your child and your child's healthcare provider. He or she can recommend support groups for you and your child.
Talk with your child's healthcare provider about your child's potential adult height. If your child's growth problems are caused by a condition that can be treated, work with your child's healthcare providers to create an ongoing plan to manage your child’s condition.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: