Growth disorders include failure to thrive, endocrine diseases, and Turner’s syndrome. Failure to thrive is not a specific growth disorder but may be a manifestation of an underlying condition causing growth problems. It is common in children under 3 years old. Usually, it is caused by poor or inadequate nutrition or an added problem like infection, problems in digestion, child neglect, or abuse.
Endocrine diseases involve a lack or excess of hormones and may be responsible for the failure of growth in childhood and adolescence. The pituitary gland secretes several hormones, including the growth hormone. This is a gland found at the base of the brain. If this is damaged or malfunctioning, it may not produce enough hormones for proper growth. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to make enough thyroid hormone which is necessary for bone development.
Turner’s syndrome is a common genetic growth disorder in girls. There is a missing or abnormal x chromosome. There is abnormal sexual development because the ovaries do not mature and do not function normally. Short stature accompanies this syndrome.
Early observation, diagnosis, and treatment of a growth disorder may help the child attain the normal final height. The specific underlying medical condition should be identified in order to give the treatment which results in improved growth.
Usually, the treatment involves hormone therapy. Not all children, however, will respond to growth hormone. Treatment may take years and is quite expensive, but its use is considered safe. Growth hormone therapy for short children who do not have growth hormone deficiency but have a low predicted final height (below 4 feet 11 inches for females and 5 feet 4 inches for males) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.