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Dwarfism is having an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches or less. More than 200 different medical conditions can cause dwarfism. The disorders are divided into two categories:
- Cases in which some parts of your body are small and other parts are of average or above-average size
- Cases in which all parts of your body are small but in proportion to each other
A single medical condition, called achondroplasia (ay-kon-druh-PLAY-zhuh), causes about 70 percent of all dwarfism. Achondroplasia is a genetic condition that makes your arms and legs short relative to your head and trunk. Other genetic conditions, low levels of some hormones (such as growth hormone), and poor nutrition can also cause dwarfism.
Dwarfism is not a disease and opinions vary within the dwarf community about whether dwarfism is a disability. Dwarfism is a recognized condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Short stature can make some activities of daily living harder, such as using an ATM or gas pump. But most people with dwarfism have active, healthy lives and normal life spans.
Explore other publications and websites
Achondroplasia (Copyright © March of Dimes Foundation) — This online fact sheet provides information about achondroplasia, including its causes, diagnosis, and treatment. A list of additional resources is provided at the end of the fact sheet.
Dwarfism — This page links to fact sheets on different types of dwarfism. Each of the links offers descriptions of the specific type of dwarfism, treatment options, and resources for more information.
Dwarfism (Copyright © Nemours Foundation) — This fact sheet is written for parents and provides information about what dwarfism is and isn't, what causes dwarfism, and the difficulties that a child with dwarfism will experience.
Dwarfism Types & Diagnoses (Copyright © Little People of America, Inc.) — This web page compiles definitions and resources for each of the types of dwarfism. It includes information on current standards of care, as well as promising research currently being conducted.
Little People of America: Frequently Asked Questions (Copyright © Little People of America, Inc.) — This publication describes the types of dwarfism, and discusses the medical prognosis as well as abilities and disabilities associated with dwarfism.
Routine Gynecologic Exams for Women of Short Stature (Copyright © Greenburg Center for Skeletal Dysplasias) — This fact sheet provides tips for women of short stature on how to adapt equipment used during a gynecological exam.
Connect with other organizations
Dwarf Athletic Association of America
Greenberg Center for Skeletal Dysplasias, Johns Hopkins University Institute of Genetic Medicine
Human Growth Foundation
International Skeletal Dysplasia Registry
Little People of America, Inc.
Content last updated September 22, 2009.
Resources last updated September 22, 2009.
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