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How do I know if my child has a growth disorder?

If parents are worried about their child's growth, it’s best to go and see a doctor. The first thing the doctor or nurse will do is measure the child’s height and weight and mark them on a chart. They do this regularly as the child gets older so that they can see how much and how quickly the child is growing. They can also compare your child's height to other kids his or her age. The doctor and nurse will ask about the parents’ heights to work out how much the child is expected to grow.   If it looks like there may be a problem with the child's growth, the doctor will arrange some tests to find out what’s going on. A blood test can check for some of the problems that affect growth. The child might also get an x-ray to look at his or her bones. Sometimes, the healthcare team will arrange a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. This takes detailed pictures of the brain to see if there’s a problem with the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus.

To determine whether your child has a growth disorder, your child's pediatrician or family doctor monitors your child's growth with every visit and documents it on a growth curve to see how the child compares to all other children of the same age and gender. As long as your child is following an appropriate curve the doctor will just monitor but when there is deviation from the curve the doctor will recommend changing behaviors and/or testing if there is significant deviation. It is important to remember that no two children will grow the very same. It also reinforces the need to have regular visits with your child's doctor, especially in the first years of life because of the rapid growth during that time.

Dr. Yung-Ping Chin, MD
Pediatrician

Growth disorders can be diagnosed at any time during childhood or adolescence. Childhood growth rates are based on a number of factors including heredity, gender and environmental influences such as nutrition. Pediatric endocrinologists take many things into account when assessing a child’s growth, including growth velocity.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.