Let’s learn about growth disorders

This page will guide you on what signs to look out for, as well as potential treatments.

Whatever the age of your child, it is important to know if they are growing as they should be. If your child’s growth rate is not within the expected range, it could be a sign of an underlying growth condition.

What does poor growth look like?

There are signs to look out for that could indicate your child is not growing as they should:

Wears out clothes before outgrowing them

Much shorter than peers or classmates

Mistaken for being much younger

Teased about height by other children

Shorter than you / your other children at the same age

What could poor growth mean?

A growth disorder is about more than height, it’s about health. These disorders should be diagnosed as quickly as possible, as they can be associated with serious health implications, such as:

Heart problems

Learning development

Eyesight

Hearing

Respiratory health

Bone health

Kidney development

Immune system

Body composition

Growth disorders and what can cause them

What is a growth disorder?

Growth disorders are a type of condition that can affect a person’s height, weight and sometimes, sexual development. There are many different types of growth disorders, caused by different factors most of which result in poor growth and other medical issues. If growth disorders are left untreated, it can lead to further health problems later in life.

Growth is a complex biological phenomenon and is influenced by genes, nutrition, environment, health, hormones and growth factors (proteins that stimulate cellular growth). It is a vital part of a child’s development and an indicator of their wellbeing.
If you have noticed your child is not growing properly, there may be an underlying condition that is causing it.

What is growth hormone and why is it important?

Growth hormone is a chemical messenger released from a part of the brain known as the pituitary gland. The purpose of growth hormone is not just to help children become taller, it sends messages to almost every part of the body telling it to grow and function. This includes, muscles, bone, heart and brain – affecting cardiac function, mental agility and even ageing. If growth hormone is too low, this can lead to reduced growth along with a number of health problems.

Why do some people have growth disorders?

Growth is complex, and sometimes the processes affecting growth do not work as expected. For example, genetic factors can affect the part of the brain which releases growth hormone – the pituitary gland. In addition, different hormones may not have been available to the foetus while developing in the womb. Take a look at the different types of growth disorders to find out more.

How are growth disorders treated?

Treatments associated with different types of growth disorder can vary, ranging from medical to psychological, and may often be a combination.

Medical treatments

Growth hormone can be given to help replace the growth hormone that is low or missing within the body. This is generally taken as a subcutaneous injection to help to stimulate growth. It can be taken by both adults and children.

Treating the other aspects of the disorder

Sometimes growth disorders will need multiple treatments. For example, people living with Turner syndrome may need growth hormone, as well as other hormones to help prevent further health problems.

Psychological treatments

Living with a growth disorder has an affect on not only physical health, but mental health too. Children and carers may need help from a mental health professional in order to deal with any social or emotional difficulties they may be facing. In addition, some growth conditions can cause neurological disturbances and so additional behavioural or psychological help may be needed.

Physiotherapy

People with growth disorders can sometimes suffer with reduced muscle strength and low bone density. Physiotherapists can help to increase muscle strength and movement, while helping reduce any pain.

Exercise

Some growth disorders, such as turner syndrome, can result in low bone mineral density. Along with appropriate medical treatments, regular physical exercise is vital to help maintain normal levels of bone mineral density.

Nutritionist / dietitian:

Certain growth disorders, such as Prader-Willi Syndrome, can unfortunately lead to weight gain and even obesity. In these situations, it may be beneficial to seek the advice of an accredited nutritionist or dietitian.

Little girl typing numbers on calculator

Growth calculator

It is important to keep track of your child’s growth in order to identify if there is a problem early on. We recommend measuring your child every 6 months, which is now easier, with our simple to use growth calculator.