There are any number of physical deformities and conditions that occur in otherwise healthy fetuses in the womb. One typical condition that is more common than you might imagine is dwarfism. Unlike just being short or being below the average, dwarfs are characterized by extreme shortness and other malformations of body parts like bowed legs that can make it hard to function in normal life. Discover the relation between Dwarfism and Bullying.
What is Dwarfism?
Dwarfism is a short stature that results from a series of genetic or medical conditions. Generally dwarfs are considered such if their total height is equal to or less than 4 feet 10 inches as an adult. Though each individual is different, generally with dwarfism, the affected adult will have bowed legs, and shorter arms which does make it harder to function in normal society. There are also some negative connotations when people define normal and place those that suffer from dwarfism outside of that norm.
There are two major forms or types of dwarfism and they are as follows, first off, disproportionate dwarfism. This is a medical condition in which the size of the body is not proportionate. This means that some parts of the body may be small while other parts are larger than they should be. Often this is a condition that makes the adults head larger than that of a normal person and their hands and feet smaller. This has to do directly with the development of bones and the fact that dwarfism prevents the healthy and average development of bones in adults. This is the most common form of dwarfism and is the type of dwarfism that is most commonly referred to. This is also the form of dwarfism that is most readily identifiable and therefore this is the main type of dwarfism that results in bullying.
The other category of dwarfism that is common on the other side of the coin is proportionate dwarfism. This means that the body is proportionate to itself. Generally, with this category those affected possess body parts that are all smaller than the average adult. Because dwarfism affects the bones and healthy development of bones, this generally means that bones are smaller, more brittle and often weaker than those bones of an average adult.
There are some distinct symptoms of each type of dwarfism that anyone can pick up on in early life. The most common symptoms or looks that these individuals, or little people, possess are an average size trunk or abdomen, short arms and legs with particularly short thighs and upper arms, short fingers, limited mobility at the elbow joint, large head, prominent or protruding forehead, flattened nose bridge, progressively bowing legs, swayed lower back that worsens with age, and an adult total height that is around 4 feet average. These physical traits are what sets these individuals apart and makes them an easy target for those individuals that want to pick on the differences of others.
Though these are a very common set of symptoms or physical traits that are common with disproportionate dwarfism there is another form of disproportionate dwarfism that is very rare. This is called, spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital. This form of dwarfism often has a shortened trunk or abdomen, shortened neck, shortened arms and legs, average hands and feet, broad round chest, slightly flat cheekbones, cleft palate, hip deformations, one foot that is twisted or misshapen, unstable neck bones, curvature or humping of upper back, swayed lower back, vision and hearing problems, arthritis and limited joint movement, and an adult total height of around 3 feet. Though this type of dwarfism does make it very hard to function in society, there are those that overcome the bullying and struggles. Actor Warwick Davis is a prime example.
Though he was bullied in school, he was ultimately able to overcome that and become a famous actor in his own right starring in films like Willow and Harry Potter.
With proportionate dwarfism you may experience some or all of the above symptoms but in most cases, this form of dwarfism just means that a person is severely under the average size for their age and demographic.
What Causes Dwarfism?
There are a few different causes of dwarfism and each is uncontrollable on the part of the parent. The first possible cause is achondroplasia. This is a genetic mutation in which two average sized parents both have one mutated form of the gene that causes dwarfism and one normal gene. The two mutated genes then come together to cause the dwarfism. About 80% of people born with this disorder are born to average size parents but some are born to little people.
The second possible cause is turner syndrome. This condition affects only girls and women and results when a sex chromosome, X, is partially or totally missing. The female inherits the chromosome from each parent and a girl with turner syndrome will have only one fully functioning copy of the X chromosome instead of the two that are needed to create an average size person.
Growth hormone deficiency can also be a cause of dwarfism. This is a condition in which the affected individual does not have the proper proportions of growth hormone resulting in a drastically under proportioned body. There are no real known causes for this so most people that are affected have no idea why they are. There are other causes for dwarfism like certain gene pairings and deficiencies but unless the cause is directly related to one of the conditions mentioned above there is no real way to pinpoint the cause.
There are certain complications that come with the disorder. With disproportionate dwarfism there are a certain set of possible complications that include but are not limited to delays in motor skill development, frequent ear infections that may lead to loss of hearing, bowed legs, hard time breathing including sleep apnea, pressure in the spinal cord at the base of the skull, extra fluid on the brain, overcrowded teeth, progressive deformation of the spine, spinal stenosis, arthritis, weight gain that can exacerbate other issues that pop up.
Midget vs Dwarf and Dwarf vs Midget Debate
There are some misconceptions about little people. Many average size people assume that all little people are the same and that there is no difference between the terms. There is however a distinct difference between those that associate themselves with the term midget as opposed to those that associate themselves with the term dwarf. In order to better understand the terms, you should first take a look at what they are. Those that consider themselves midget are normally proportioned people that are just much smaller than the average. Midget in most cases is considered a derogatory term that offends little people, which is the politically correct term. Dwarf however refers to someone that can suffer from any number of genetic abnormalities that made them that way.
This is a very heated topic because when most people think of those that are of short stature, they automatically assume that they are a midget and that they want to be called such. There have been numerous debates and struggles for little people to get this deemed the socially and politically correct term for those suffering from dwarfism.
Most dwarfs have disproportionate body parts that are generally caused by a genetic mutation or a nutritional disability that keeps them from growing properly. Dwarfism can affect any number of species as well while midget is considered something that only affects humans. Animals and plants can also be considered dwarf and are achieved by cross breeding desirable genetic mutations.
What Can Be Done?
Though there is no cure for dwarfism as it is not something that can be cured with medication but rather with genetic testing prior to conception, there are some things that can be done to make the condition less painful for those that suffer from it.
First off, there have been experimental leg and arm lengthening surgeries done to give the sufferer a bit more height. In most cases these surgeries can only give the patient a couple of inches. The procedure is simpler than you might imagine. First off, the leg or arm is cut open and the bone is either broken or cut into two pieces. Then, bracing is added to the two parts to add length and encourage bone growth over the bracing to add height. This is an incredibly painful procedure and as of yet it has not been accepted widely across the world. There are some doctors that perform the procedure often and others that refuse to perform it at all.
Another practice that is somewhat common that can help make the sufferer more comfortable is of course braces to help support and strengthen the bones and legs as well as arms. There are also hormone therapies that can help add some growth and pain pills to help with pain and overall discomfort. There are also support groups that meet to help those that are suffering from the condition learn how to function in a normal sized world. There are also foundations that are dedicated to finding out how to prevent dwarfism and other genetic mutations through gene therapy prior to conception.
On top of all that, there are also ways that the home and world outside can be adapted to meet the needs of someone that is below average stature. First off, there are pedal extensions and booster like seats to make driving possible. If pedal extensions are not enough, they also have hand controls that a dwarf can use to help them drive a car like an average sized person.
There are also companies that come and build custom cabinets and retrofit homes to meet the needs of smaller individuals. With cabinets that are lowered, built in stairs and step stools, and more, there are now more ways that ever to increase the mobility of someone that has dwarfism by a great deal. Though it may seem like dwarfism is a sentence be unable to function properly in the outside world forever, there are now more mobility options than ever before that help make it possible for a little person to live a completely normal life no matter what other people say.
There are also those that worry about how the public receives little people. There are still people that are going to see dwarfs as different and hard to live with. That being said, there are far more people that are open minded and even curious about dwarfism than ever before. With the Little People of America there are now more programs than ever to educate people about dwarfism and about how to help those that have dwarfism. Through the purchase of small items through the foundation like t-shirts and pencils, you can help support vital research and outreach programs that help make it easier for these individuals to function in normal society.
Though little people used to attract gawks and stares, they are now more accepted than ever with a higher number of dwarfs in the world than in previous years. Though these individuals used to be seen as oddities and sideshow attractions, they are now living normal lives, getting high paying jobs, getting educations, and starting families that they deserve rather than being persecuted for being so different. Where little people used to be somewhat uncommon, it is now more common than ever to see little people out and about just living their lives like other average size adults.
There are also programs in place to help those little people that want to adopt children and start lives to do just that. Though society once held these individuals back it now embraces them with open arms and helps them become the people they want to be through the countless opportunities that are put before them. In a world where everyone is concerned with doing things as simply and easily as possible, this is certain a day and age where little people can feel right at home and at ease with their abilities to do what they want when they want. Take the time to learn about this important cause in order to help those that are afflicted by it.