“Short people have no reason to live,” or so goes the 1977 Randy Newman song, but the truth is far different. For better or for worse, however, many parents fret when their child, especially in the case of a son, appears to be headed for a life of being shorter than average. Fortunately, most experts agree that unless there is a medical cause for that shortness, there is usually no reason for alarm.
A Common Scenario
According to the March 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, pediatricians face this situation a lot: parents bring their child in to see them when they appear to be significantly shorter than their classmates, especially when their growth appears to have slowed. Most pediatric endocrinologists would agree with their concerns since there might be underlying medical issues involved such as a growth hormone deficiency or an under-active thyroid gland, but in most cases, children are determined to be perfectly healthy. The matter came to a head several years ago when human growth hormone was approved for so-called idiopathic short stature, or that shortness that occurs with no accompanying medical reason.
A Dose of Reality
The bottom line is that whether a child would be a good candidate for HGH therapy or not, it is important that parents have realistic expectations for the treatments. After all, most studies show that HGH add only about 1-3 inches to growth to an adult. Another issue is the natural growth expectancy of a child. For example, if two parents are short, chances are good that their children will be of short stature also. It is also important to keep in mind that HGH treatments can end up costing between $35,000 and $50,000 per inch of growth.
There is every reason to believe that even a child who could be expected to be genetically short might later hit a growth spurt, allying all fears.