Complications of dwarfism-related disorders can vary greatly, but some complications are common to a number of conditions.

Disproportionate dwarfism

The characteristic features of the skull, spine and limbs shared by most forms of disproportionate dwarfism result in some common problems:

  • Delays in motor skills development, such as sitting up, crawling and walking
  • Frequent ear infections and risk of hearing loss
  • Bowing of the legs
  • Difficulty breathing during sleep (sleep apnea)
  • Pressure on the spinal cord at the base of the skull
  • Excess fluid around the brain (hydrocephalus)
  • Crowded teeth
  • Progressive severe hunching or swaying of the back with back pain or problems breathing
  • Narrowing of the channel in the lower spine (spinal stenosis), resulting in pressure on the spinal cord and subsequent pain or numbness in the legs
  • Arthritis
  • Weight gain that can further complicate problems with joints and the spine and place pressure on nerves

Proportionate dwarfism

With proportionate dwarfism, problems in growth and development often result in complications with poorly developed organs. For example, heart problems often present in Turner syndrome can have a significant effect on health. An absence of sexual maturation associated with growth hormone deficiency or Turner syndrome affects both physical development and social functioning.

Pregnancy

Women with disproportionate dwarfism may develop respiratory problems during pregnancy. A C-section (cesarean delivery) is almost always necessary because the size and shape of the pelvis doesn't allow for successful vaginal delivery.

Public perceptions

Most people with dwarfism prefer not to be labeled by a condition. However, some people may refer to themselves as dwarfs or little people. The word "midget" is generally considered an offensive term.

People of average height may have misconceptions about people with dwarfism. And the portrayal of people with dwarfism in modern movies often includes stereotypes. Misconceptions can impact a person's self-esteem and limit opportunities for success in school or employment.

Children with dwarfism are particularly vulnerable to teasing and ridicule from classmates. Because dwarfism is relatively uncommon, children may feel isolated from their peers.

Sep. 11, 2014

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