Dwarfism is used to describe a person of short stature, less than 4 feet, 10 inches (147 cm). This is often, though not always, because of a medical condition. People with this condition are called dwarves or little people. A similar term for short people is midget; however, dwarves and midgets are not the same. Midgets are perfectly proportioned humans, while dwarves have a large head and misshapen limbs and torsos.
Dwarfism is usually caused by the person inheriting an allele (a mutant gene), which produces a defect in development. Defects caused by genetics are the main kind of congenital defects, and usually cannot be cured.
The most common cause of dwarfism is a defect in bone development called achondroplasia, in which the limbs are short in proportion to the body. This accounts for 70% of cases.
There are more than 200 other conditions which may cause dwarfism.
In the 19th century in the United States, people with dwarfism were a major attraction of many circus sideshows. The most famous little people in the history of the American circus are General Tom Thumb and Michu.
- Kennedy, Dan. "P.O.V. – Big Enough. What is Dwarfism?". Public Broadcasting Service. Archived from the original on 2009-03-13. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
- "MedlinePlus: Dwarfism". MedlinePlus. National Institute of Health. 2008-08-04. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- Ogden, Tom. 1993. The American Circus. Facts on File. p. 237.