May also be called: Growth Hormone Deficiency
Pituitary dwarfism, or growth hormone deficiency, is a condition in which the pituitary gland does not make enough growth hormone. This results in a child's slow growth pattern and an unusually small stature (below average height).
Pituitary gland dysfunction can be congenital, meaning the child was born with the abnormality, or can be acquired during or after birth. It tends to run in families.
Some causes of acquired pituitary dwarfism include brain tumors or diseases that affect the pituitary or hypothalamus, head trauma, radiation therapy for certain cancers, and an autoimmune condition called lymphocytic hypophysitis.
The main symptom of pituitary dwarfism is below-average growth, although body proportions will be normal. Other characteristics might include an immature appearance, a chubby body build, a prominent forehead, and an underdeveloped bridge of the nose.
If a tumor is present, symptoms may include headaches, vomiting, double vision, sleep disturbances, and excessive thirst.
Pituitary dwarfism is treated with regular injections of synthetic human growth hormone before a child's growth plates have joined together. It can be difficult to manage, however, and success rates vary.
Children with pituitary dwarfism have normal intelligence and with early detection and treatment, many of them can also reach a normal height.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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