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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.

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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

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