Restricted growth (dwarfism) is a condition characterised by short stature. It can be caused by several different medical conditions.

There are two main types of restricted growth:

  • proportionate short stature (PSS) – a general lack of growth 
  • disproportionate short stature (DSS) – a problem with the way certain bones grow

Read more about the symptoms of restricted growth

Proportionate short stature (PSS)

If someone has PSS, the length of their trunk (abdomen and chest) will be in normal proportion with the legs, but they will have a general lack of height.

The most common cause of PSS is being born to small parents. PSS can also occur when the body does not produce enough growth hormone.

Certain genetic syndromes may also cause PSS. For example, girls with Turner syndrome and children with a genetic abnormality known as SHOX gene haploinsufficiency have a mild form of PSS.

Read more about the causes of restricted growth.

Disproportionate short stature (DSS)

DSS occurs when there is a problem with the way joints and bones grow. Certain limbs may be shorter, or the trunk may be particularly short. Generally, there may be a severe lack of height.

Conditions associated with DSS are usually caused by a faulty gene. Many children born with DSS have parents of average height and the faulty gene occurred by chance.

Around 30,000 people in the UK have a restricted growth condition that causes DSS.

Treatment will depend on the cause of short stature and is likely to involve many different types of healthcare professionals.

If the legs are particularly short, DSS can be treated with a leg-lengthening procedure, although there is uncertainty about the safety and effectiveness of this.

Some children with restricted growth may be eligible for treatment with human growth hormone.

Find out more about treating restricted growth.


Restricted growth (dwarfism): Christian’s story

Christian has achondroplasia which is a form of short-limbed dwarfism. In this video Christian describes what it was like growing up with the condition. He also highlights the importance of support from parents and child’s care teams to children with restricted growth.

Media last reviewed: 06/10/2014

Next review due: 06/10/2016

Childhood health checks

Your child will be offered various health checks to monitor their development while growing

Page last reviewed: 10/04/2013

Next review due: 10/04/2015