There have been many advances in the field of science over the past century, and there are a wide variety of treatments and programs available to those with dwarfism. However, our sensibilities have not always kept pace with our scientific advances. While we have grown to understand more and more about dwarfism, we have not always grown equally in our acceptance of this condition. Here, then, are eight key things to keep in mind regarding the cause, nature, and treatments for pituitary dwarfism.
1. It’s all in the glands: As the name might suggest, pituitary dwarfism is a form of dwarfism which is caused by low production levels of key hormones which the pituitary gland is responsible for. There are two forms of pituitary dwarfism, both of which are the result of a certain hormone deficiency in the body—one form concerns low adenohypophysis levels and pertains to a lack of endocrine production, while another refers to low levels of growth hormone (GH.) In the former case, puberty is not reached; in GH dwarfism cases, puberty and reproduction are possible.
2. Causes: There are a variety of potential causes for pituitary dwarfism. In the first place, it’s possible to have pituitary dwarfism as the result of mutation in your genetic code. There are specific mutations which can cause this, and will need to be examined on a case by case basis. In addition, any damage to or trauma inflicted upon the pituitary gland can hamper its ability to produce the aforementioned hormones, which in turn may cause pituitary dwarfism. Tumors or irradiation may also contribute to this form of dwarfism, especially if the central nervous system or pituitary gland itself are affected. In keeping with the aforementioned irradiation, leukemia can lead to dwarfism in some cases. However, to a large extent, the cause of many cases—and to an extent, the condition as a whole—remains a mystery.
3. Growth rate and proportionality: As you might have guessed, children who are effected by pituitary dwarfism grow at a slow rate. In general, children with this form of dwarfism are commonly 20-25% shorter in stature than the average for their age; even so, the overall proportions of the child should be in line with the proportions of an average human body. Conversely, children who have pituitary dwarfism are more likely to store an excess of fat cells—most commonly in extremities—due to an inability to efficiently degrade and break down these cells.
4. Sexual organs: As children are, in one sense, a way to carry on a family line or legacy, this can be a natural area to be curious about regarding pituitary dwarfism. As stated above, GH dwarfism does allow for sexual maturity to come about and, as a result, for reproduction. However, as with the rest of the body, the dimensions of one’s sexual organs will be proportional to but smaller than the average size for an average human being. In females, both the vaginal area and uterus are likely to be smaller in size, and the mammary glands are likewise more likely to be underdeveloped than in other cases. In the case of males, the testicles are not likely to fully descend, and both the testes and penis itself are likely to be comparable in size to what one would expect in infancy or early childhood.
5. Intelligence and demeanor: This can naturally be a tricky subject to touch upon for any group. It should be noted that pituitary dwarfism does not impede one’s intellectual growth or overall “intelligence” in significant way. That being said, no matter who you are, you’re bound to be more prone to some psychological issues, and those with dwarfism have classically been found to be more likely to experience depression or an inferiority complex.
6. Voice: Even though those living with pituitary dwarfism may go through puberty, because of their reduced size, they are still likely to retain higher-pitched voices than most adults do into adulthood.
7. Diagnosis: The growth hormones which are deficient in cases of pituitary dwarfism are absent or severely diminished from birth onward. However, for a variety of reasons, dwarfism is not generally diagnosed until a few years after birth. This is part of the reason why children generally have regular X-rays when they visit their physician during their adolescence; tracking the growth of a child’s bones can be an effective way of catching and diagnosing pituitary dwarfism.
8. Treatment: If you have determined that your son or daughter has pituitary dwarfism, there are several treatment options available to you. Most of these treatments involve hormone injections in one form or another, giving your children the hormones their body would naturally have produced. These treatments have been shown to add several centimeters to children’s height, and new treatments are being developed all the time.