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Growth Disorders

Growth Disorders

Growth disorders are problems that can cause children to grow abnormally fast or slow. As a result, the child may be unusually tall or short for his or her age group. While some variations in normal growth patterns are not a cause for concern, others may be the result of underlying disorders that affect the production of the hormones required for growth and development. Endocrine diseases are often the cause. The endocrine system is responsible for producing the hormones that are necessary in regulating the various systems of the body. When endocrine diseases exist, the body may produce too many or too few of the hormones needed for growth. The most common endocrine system problems in children are those that affect the pituitary gland, which is responsible for producing growth hormones. In many cases, a non-cancerous tumor on the pituitary gland is responsible for the overproduction of growth hormone that causes children to be taller than normal. The pituitary gland may also produce too little, resulting in short stature.

Types of Growth Disorders

Growth disorders may also be caused by other conditions such as Turner syndrome. This is one of the most common growth disorders, and it occurs in females as the result of an abnormal or missing X chromosome. Hypothyroidism can also cause growth disorders. Numerous tests are usually performed to detect growth disorders and to determine their exact cause.

Treating Growth Disorders

The treatment for growth disorders varies depending upon the cause and the nature of the disorder. When children are not growing as much as they should due to a lack of growth hormone or in cases of Turner syndrome, prescribed growth hormones are often used to stimulate growth. If a tumor exists on the pituitary gland, it may be treated with radiation or medications, or it may need to be removed surgically. In cases where a child's self-esteem is damaged due to abnormal growth, treatment by a mental health professional may be recommended. 

Most growth disorders do not cause major problems. Some, however, may impair other aspects of a child's development. When detected and treated, the majority of disorders can be managed. Treatments like growth hormones are often successful in helping children catch up with others in their age group in terms of height, and they typically do not cause any problems. When left untreated, children may suffer from poor self-esteem and other social or emotional problems due to their height.