What is Dwarfism?

Dwarfism is when a person is short in stature and is commonly defined as an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches or under, resulting from a medical or genetic condition. Some groups extend the criteria for certain forms of dwarfism to 5 feet tall.

There are over 200 different dwarfism and restricted growth conditions. Achondroplasia is the most common type of dwarfism with a birth incidence of about 1 in 25,000 to 30,000 people. A little-known fact is that 80% of people with Achondroplasia are born to average height parents.

DSAuk has members with many different restricted growth conditions, all of whom, along with their families, participate and enjoy the variety of activities, sport, competitions and regional and national events on offer.

Some people prefer the term “short stature” or “little people” rather than “dwarf” or “dwarfism.” So, it’s important to be sensitive to the preference of someone who has this condition.

People with dwarfism are generally of normal intelligence. As well as being short, some people may have bowed legs or a curvature of the spine, but most people don’t have any other serious problems and are able to live a normal life, with a normal life expectancy.


There are two main categories of dwarfism — proportionate and disproportionate.

Proportionate dwarfism is characterized by the body being in proportion but shortened.

Disproportionate dwarfism is characterized by an average-size torso and shorter arms and legs or a shortened trunk with longer limbs.

The most common types of dwarfism, known as skeletal dysplasias and which cause disproportionate dwarfism are genetic.

Conditions include:


The most common form of dwarfism — accounting for around 70% of cases of dwarfism — achondroplasia occurs on average in about one out of 25,000 babies and is evident at birth. People with achondroplasia have a relatively long trunk and shortened upper parts of their arms and legs.



Similar to Achondroplasia but the features tend to be generally less pronounced and may not be noticeable until early or middle childhood. Birth incidence is unknown but could be similar to achondroplasia.



Also similar to Achondroplasia but usually resulting in a shorter adult height. A rarer condition, birth incidence thought to be 1 in 30,000. Signs of this condition aren’t visible until around age 2 when a child’s growth rate begins to slow down.


Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia (SED)

A less common form of dwarfism, SED affects around one in 95,000 babies. Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia refers to a group of conditions characterized by a shortened trunk, which may not become apparent until a child is between ages 5 and 10.


Diastrophic dysplasia

A rare form of dwarfism, diastrophic dysplasia occurs in about one in 100,000 births. People who have it tend to have shortened forearms and calves (this is known as mesomelic shortening).


Turner syndrome

This genetic condition only affects females and is caused by a missing or partial X chromosome.


To learn more about these and many other types of dwarfism, please click HERE and a new page will open; “Types of Dwarfism” from the Little People UK website.