If you are an Austin Powers fan you will be well acquainted with “Mini Me”, the dwarf clone of Dr. Evil. Mini Me is one of the hundreds of references to the little people (as they are known in US and Canada) made in the entertainment industry over centuries. In India there was an entire movie “Jajantaram Mamantaram” based on island of dwarfs in which the whole cast consisted of little people. These are just few instances of mainstream attention to these people of short-stature who have been part of almost all fairy tales and legends throughout the world. Be it “Snow-white”, “Gulliver’s Travels” or the legends of Leprechauns and Santa’s Helpers, dwarfism has long been recognized and accepted societies across the world. Dwarfism is a highly visible condition and often carries negative connotations in society. People with dwarfism were often used as spectacles in entertainment and portrayed with stereotypes. In middle ages, dwarfs were treated as freaks and also evil or cursed. But things have changed today and the “LP” (little people) are now accepted in the society and command proper respect. There are nearly 200 types of dwarfism since the condition varies too much from person to person. But all dwarfism can be broadly classified into two categories; Disproportionate dwarfism and proportionate dwarfism. We will discuss both these types here.
Different Kinds Of Dwarfism
This type of dwarfism is diagnosed when the body size is disproportionate. That is, when some parts of the body are small, and others are of average size or above-average size. Disorders causing disproportionate dwarfism inhibit the development of bones. In Achondroplasia, which is a type of disproportionate dwarfism which accounts for almost seventy percent of all dwarfism cases, the trunk is of normal size but the limbs are disproportionately short. Also the head is larger than usual, and the forehead is more prominent. Opposite to this some people may have a very short trunk and shortened (but disproportionately large) limbs. These are mostly caused by genetic mutations. For example, Achondroplasia is caused by the mutation in the fibroblast growth factor receptor gene in a person’s DNA. People suffering from disproportionate dwarfism have normal intellectual capacities mostly but in rare cases a secondary factor, such as excess fluid around the brain (hydrocephalus) can hamper these. Symptoms of Achondroplasia are short arms and legs while trunk size is normal. The fingers are short with a wide separation between the middle and ring fingers.
The mobility of hands is limited at the elbows. The head is disproportionately large with a prominent forehead and flattened bridge of the nose. Sometimes there is a progressive development of bowed legs (genu varum) or swayed lower back (lordosis).
This type of dwarfism results when the body appears normally proportioned, but is abnormally small. This mostly results from the deficiency of growth hormone. It occurs when the pituitary gland fails to produce adequate supply of growth hormone, which is necessary for proper childhood growth. This is either congenital or sets in during early childhood. These problems are known to affect the mental growth, which delays or impairs mental maturity. The symptoms for this type of dwarfism are: height below the third percentile of standard sizes or growth rate slower than expected for age. This can be accompanied by delayed or no sexual development during adolescence. Turner syndrome is the most common type of proportionate dwarfism which includes short stature and impaired sexual maturation in females. Some symptoms may be visible in childhood but the major ones are visible only during adolescence. Some of the symptoms are wide or web-like neck, receding or small lower jaw with a high and narrow roof of the mouth (palate). Short hands and arms that turn outward at the elbows (cubitus valgus) are also common. There is a chance of swelling of the hands and feet, especially at the time of birth.
Note: Though, dwarfism can never be treated completely, its symptoms can always be diminished to a short extent by medication. It’s necessary to understand these symptoms and consult a doctor immediately if you notice any of these with your child.