AskDefine | Define dwarfism

Dictionary Definition

dwarfism n : a genetic abnormality resulting in short stature [syn: nanism]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The condition of being a dwarf.
    • 1985, J. D. Esko et al., "Animal Cell Mutants Defective in Glycosaminoglycan Biosynthesis," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 82, no. 10, p. 3200,
      Studies of disproportionate dwarfisms in animals have revealed the importance of core proteins an sulfation in the development of cartilage.


Extensive Definition

Dwarfism refers to a condition in individual plants or animals characterized by extreme small size. In older popular and medical usage, any type of marked human smallness could also be termed dwarfism. The term as related to human beings (the major subject of this article) is often used to refer specifically to those forms of extreme shortness characterized by disproportion of body parts, typically due to an inheritable disorder in bone or cartilage development.
Forms of extreme shortness in humans characterized by proportional body parts usually have a hormonal or nutritional cause. An example is growth hormone deficiency, once known as "pituitary dwarfism".
The Little People of America (LPA) defines dwarfism as a medical or genetic condition that usually results in an adult height of 4'10" (147 cm) or shorter.

Types of dwarfism

  • rhizomelic = root, e.g. bones of upper arm or thigh
  • mesomelic = middle, e.g. bones of forearm or lower leg
  • acromelic = end, e.g. bones of hands and feet.
When the cause of dwarfism is understood, it may be classified according to one of hundreds of names, which are usually permutations of the following roots:
  • chondro = of cartilage
  • osteo = of bone
  • spondylo = of the vertebrae
  • plasia = form
  • trophy = growth
The most recognizable and most common form of dwarfism is achondroplasia, which produces rhizomelic short limbs, increased spinal curvature, and distortion of skull growth. It accounts for 70% of dwarfism cases. Other relatively common types include spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SED), diastrophic dysplasia, pseudoachondroplasia, hypochondroplasia, and osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). Severe shortness with skeletal distortion also occurs in several of the mucopolysaccharidoses and other storage diseases.
The average adult height of male and females with dwarfism is 132 cm and 123 cm respectively. The average weight of an adult may range from 100 to 150 pounds (45-68 kg).


Unusually short stature for a child's age is usually what brings the child to medical attention. Skeletal dysplasia ("dwarfism") is usually suspected because of obvious physical features (e.g., unusual configuration of face or shape of skull), because of an obviously affected parent, or because body measurements (arm span, upper to lower segment ratio) indicate disproportion. Bone x-rays are often the key to diagnosis of a specific skeletal dysplasia, but they are not the key diagnosis. Most children with suspected skeletal dysplasias will be referred to a genetics clinic for diagnostic confirmation and genetic counseling. In the last decade, genetic tests for some of the specific disorders have become available.
During the initial medical evaluation for shortness, the absence of disproportion and the other clues above usually indicates other causes than bone dysplasias. Extreme shortness with completely normal proportions sometimes indicates growth hormone deficiency (pituitary dwarfism).
Short stature alone, in the absence of any other abnormalities, may simply be genetic, particularly if a person is born into a family of people who are relatively short.

Problems associated with dwarfism

The principal adverse effects of dwarfism can be divided into the physical and the social.
Physical effects of malformed bones vary according to the specific disease. Many involve pain resulting from joint damage from abnormal bone alignment, or from nerve compression (e.g, spinal stenosis). Recent scholarship has indicated that the ancient Egyptians esteemed dwarves.
In Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels", the protagonist encounters in the court of the Giants' Kingdom the strong enmity of the local "dwarf", who is "only" twenty feet high (where normal giants measure forty feet) and resents being displaced by "a smaller dwarf".
Several novels have treated dwarfism as a major theme, although not necessarily realistically: Leslie Fiedler's Freaks: Myths and Images of the Secret Self (1979) explored the value of differentness of "freaks" to "normal" people, lamenting medical treatment for reducing the number of picturesquely different people around.
Several 20th and 21st century movies & TV shows have addressed the topic or made much use of dwarves:
The actor and stunt man Verne Troyer has become famous playing the character "Mini-Me" in two Austin Powers movies, as has fellow stuntman and Jackass cast-member, Jason "Wee-Man" Acuña .
The 1960s television series The Wild Wild West'' featured a dwarf, Michael Dunn, as the recurring character Dr. Miguelito Loveless, the brilliant but insane arch-enemy of Secret Service agents James West and Artemus Gordon.
In the mid-1970s, Sid and Marty Krofft built an indoor theme park in Atlanta, Georgia called The World of Sid and Marty Krofft. This had a live stage production that was at that time the largest gathering of "little people" since the filming of The Wizard of Oz in 1937-38 as well as being the largest indoor theme park built to that time. The facility that was built to house this theme park is today the studios of CNN, the Cable News Network, and CNN Headline News.
In the late 1970s, Hervé Villechaize played the character Tattoo on the TV series Fantasy Island.
In the 1990s, the immensely popular series Seinfeld featured a dwarf character, Mickey Abbott, in seven episodes; Mickey was played by actor Danny Woodburn. He got into several physical altercations with -plus Kramer. In one episode, he was ostracized by his dwarf peers for using lifts in his shoes to make him look taller.
In the movie, The Mighty, one of the main characters, Kevin, nicknamed Freak, has a rare form of dwarfism called Morquio syndrome, which kills him at the end of the movie because of the symptoms.
Arguably the most famous dwarf actor is Warwick Davis, having found success in several notable fantasy franchises, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, Willow, Leprechaun, Gulliver's Travels, The 10th Kingdom, and The Chronicles of Narnia (both the 1989 television serial and again in the upcoming 2008 film version of Prince Caspian).
From 1999 until 2003, the popular television series The Man Show featured dwarves in many of their segments. They once claimed to be "the world's largest employer of midgets".
In Mind of Mencia, one of the main characters is a dwarf named Brad Williams. Brad is a comedian who tours with Carlos Mencia as his opening act.
In Monster Garage, Chris "Body Drop" Artiaga made his début as a contestant in episode 'Ramp Rage', but later became parts runner for the series. In addition, there are 2 episodes featuring all-dwarf build teams.
In George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, one of the main characters, Tyrion Lannister, is a dwarf. Though a brilliant and well-read man (some would say genius), he struggles with acceptance by "normal" people, who pejoratively refer to him as "the Imp," or "half-man". This is especially true of his father, Lord Tywin Lannister, who holds Tyrion in contempt, especially when compared to Tyrion's handsome, talented older brother Jaime, and Jaime's equally beautiful and talented twin sister, Cersei. Tyrion often wonders if any woman could ever truly love him in spite of his condition.
Johnny Roventini was a dwarf bellboy in a New York City hotel when he was paid $1 to "Call for Phillip Morris", unknowingly beginning his 40-year career as an advertising icon in radio, television, and print media.


External links

dwarfism in Danish: Dværg (menneske)
dwarfism in German: Minderwuchs
dwarfism in Spanish: Enanismo
dwarfism in Esperanto: Naneco
dwarfism in French: Nanisme
dwarfism in Italian: Nanismo
dwarfism in Hebrew: גמדות
dwarfism in Japanese: 小人症
dwarfism in Norwegian: Dvergvekst
dwarfism in Polish: Karłowatość
dwarfism in Portuguese: Nanismo
dwarfism in Russian: Карлик
dwarfism in Finnish: Lyhytkasvuisuus
dwarfism in Swedish: Dvärgväxt
dwarfism in Chinese: 侏儒症
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