Dwarfism is a genetic condition of short stature, defined as an adult height of four feet and ten inches or under. There are many different types of dwarfism that affect a person’s proportions and bone growth. The two main categories for these types are proportionate and disproportionate. Proportionate refers to body parts that are in proportion but shortened while disproportionate refers to an average torso with shorter extremities or a short torso with longer extremities.
There is no known “cure” for dwarfism and many people with dwarfism are able to lead happy and fulfilling lives without needing any sort of treatment. Others find treatment helpful in correcting or relieving problems caused by complications of this condition. For instance, surgical treatments may be able to correct which way the bones are growing or stabilize and correct the shape of the spine. Hormone therapy is also available for individuals who have dwarfism as a result of a growth hormone deficiency. Regular checkups at the doctor are important to monitor growth and development and help avoid or quickly respond to any complications that arise.
People with dwarfism prefer to be referred to as “someone with dwarfism” or as a “little person” (LP). The M-word is widely considered unacceptable and offensive. They are often able to live totally “normal” lives, perhaps with some assistance from friends, family or adaptive equipment such as pedal extenders or mobility scooters. One of the biggest challenges LP’s face is discrimination and judgment from others.
There are a variety of support networks for LP’s and a number of companies that make equipment, clothing, shoes, etc. specifically for people with dwarfism. There are also nonprofit organizations that provide support and information to LP’s and their families.