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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Height

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Height [posted 1/11/99]
Question: I am short for 21 year old male, 5 feet 3 inches tall, and was wondering if there is anything that I can take or do to increase my height? I heard about a growth hormone and was wondering if that is a recommended option?

Answer: Human growth hormone only works if your growth plates are open. For men, this starts about 21 and finished at 25 or so with a lot of variability. Check with an endocrinologist, but may be too late.

Children's Growth [posted 1/7/99]
Question: Both my 4 and 6 year olds are quite small. (4 year old - 40 1/4 inches, 6 year old - 43 inches). I am 4 ft 7 in (I was in a blind study on hormone treatment with no results, but I don't know if I got the real thing). My husband is 5 ft 4 in, as is most of his siblings. The six year old was evaluated at age four and his bone growth was within normal parameters. Is there really nothing that can be done to encourage growth?

Answer: Human growth hormone. You'll need to find a physician who will give it. Usually a pediatric endocrinologist, but check prior to seeing them so you don't waste your time. Some have very distinct ideas about the use of this drug.

Height Growth [posted 7/30/98]
Question: I understand that height is highly dependent on genetics. I was curious if it was also effected by other things. For example, how much you sleep, or some foods that you eat.

Answer: Growth hormone is secreted during deep sleep. So, interruption of sleep can theoretically keep a child from reaching maximal height. Good nutrition, etc., and other factors will allow an individual to reach their maximal height. However, the maximal height seems to be genetically predetermined. Administration of Human Growth Hormone will allow further growth if the growth plates of the long bones are not fused (around 16 for women and 22 for men).

Height [posted 7/30/98]
Question: What is the difference between a midget, a pygmy, and a dwarf?

Answer: Dwarfism is usually a genetic condition related to one of the chondrodystrophies such as achondroplastic dwarfism. This category included individuals with normal body proportions, but with the characteristic ocular or palate changes. There are about 30 different types of congenital dwarfism. A pygmy is an anthropological term referring to a race in Southern Africa, all of whom are of small stature. It is occasionally used to indicate small size, but the accurate use is only in relation to one particular race of individuals. A midget is a loose term referring to an individual -usually in the lower 10% of height for age and not reaching further height. This individuals can be treated with growth hormone if caught in time.

Growth - Height
Question: I'm 19 years old and 5’7”. Can I still grow taller, and how?

Answer: If you are a female it’s not likely. If you are a male, yes, until you are about 25-26 years old. Growth hormone might be helpful, but should be monitored very closely.

Growth - Height
Question: How tall is an average girl suppose to be?

Answer: It depends on her age and ethnic background. The average of all american women has increased over the last 30 years from 5’2” to currently 5’4”(all ages) each decade has a different figure that is higher than the previous decade.

Adult growth
Question: An acquaintance (female, age 35) has grown 1.5 inches in the past twelve months. This is her first "growth spurt" since she was 14 years old. Isn't this very unusual? Why would she start growing taller now, as an adult?

Answer: Adults usually stop growing due to fusion of their growth plates to the associated bones. This usually occurs around menarche for girls and about 25 for boys. Growth after this point is very rare, although it could demonstrate excess growth hormone, which is a medical condition that should be investigated.

Question: I would like to know whether there are any drugs or vitamins on the market that can make one to grow taller.

Answer: Human growth hormone will produce this effect. It is administered to children who are in the lower 10% or so of the growth curves. It is expensive, but has few, if any side effects since it is manufactured genetically. Prior to genetic production, there was a risk of viral transmission of several diseases. It is expensive and most physicians will not administer it if you are not decidedly short. It will not have an effect if your growth plates are closed (about early 20s for men and 16 or so for women).

Height - Midgets
Question: I was wondering how short someone must be to technically be classified as a midget, as opposed to just a really short person. I know that a dwarf has a genetic abnormality, but I think a midget is just a really short person. What height is it?

Answer: Midget is not a medical term. Consequently, there is no definition medically if a midget. Patients who are below 90 or 95% of average body height are usually given growth hormone.

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