Common Growth Concerns

Types of Growth Disorders in Children

If you’re noticing that your child isn’t growing as quickly as they should (at an average of 2 inches per year between age 4 and puberty), or that their clothes and shoes still fit them the same from the year before, you might begin to wonder if your child has a growth disorder.

Some children are naturally short and will fall lower on the growth percentile chart than other children, and there might be no cause for concern. As long as your child is growing at a steady rate and following their own line on the growth curve, there is not usually too much to worry about. But, if their growth rate changes or plateaus you might be worried that there   is an underlying issue.

Slow growth and crossing growth percentiles can affect children because of genetics, environmental factors, a constitutional delay, hormonal factors or other medical issues.

What Is A Growth Disorder?

A growth disorder is an underlying condition that causes stunted growth. It prevents a child from growing properly, whether that be in height, weight, or a delay in puberty.

Some growth and development disorders are immediately recognizable while the child is still in the womb or they can be diagnosed at birth. Others are not identifiable until your child is a few years old, such as when they are not growing at the expected rate of 2 inches per year after their third birthday.

Hormonal growth disorders in children can include Hypothyroidism, Human Growth Hormone Deficiency, and Cushing’s Syndrome. Growth disorders brought on by environmental factors, such as poor nutrition, can include Nutritional Short Stature. Genetic syndromes such as Turner, Noonan and Russell Silver Syndrome, also affect one’s height and are associated with growth disorders.

Types of Growth Disorders

Chronic Diseases

  1. Malabsorption -  This syndrome includes a number of disorders where the small intestine cannot absorb enough nutrients and fluids that it needs to. Most common disorders in this category are celiac disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
  2. Celiac Disease - An autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten causes damage in the small intestine.
  3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease - This is a cluster of intestinal disorders that can lead to the inflammation of the digestive tract.
  4. Heart Disease - Either congenital heart defects, which are present since birth, or acquired heart diseases which cause heart failure.
  5. Severe Lung Disease


Malnutrition or undernutrition is also associated with slow linear growth rate. Careful patients history information and food diary can help the dietitian assess the intake information and find out whether the child get enough macro and micro nutrient to support appropriate growth.

Hormonal disorders

Among the hormonal disorders that stunt growth are  Human Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD), Cushing’s Syndrome, and Hypothyroidism.

GHD happens when a child’s pituitary gland does not produce enough Human Growth Hormone. Physicians can normally help your child reach proper growth by administering synthetic growth hormones.

Cushing's Syndrome is characterized by your child’s body creating too much cortisol which comes from the adrenal gland. This will cause your child to continue gaining weight, but they usually will not be able to grow in normal growth rate linearly.

Hypothyroidism occurs when your child’s thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This results in weight gain, sluggishness, lethargy, and face swelling. Most hospitals screen for this when your child is born, but it might develop at a later time. Hypothyroidism can be treated by adding synthetic hormones to the body.

Genetic growth disorders

Genetic issues that involve bone growth can cause growth disorders. The range of the effect that the genetic disorder has on bone growth is very wide. Genetic disorder can affect bone growth dramatically to cause severe short stature or mildly to cause mild short stature.

Constitutional delay of growth on the other hand, is difficult to diagnose. Usually the child is healthy and growing along the lower side of the normal growth curve in height and weight with delayed bone age. Many times there is a similar family history of “late bloomers” in the family. Children with CDG usually need no intervention in their growth and will catch up to their peers eventually.

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