Health Alert: Growth problems - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Health Alert: Growth problems

(National-NBC) July 29, 2005 - Not everyone can be tall, but for some girls, being short can point to serious health problems. The problem is many doctors don't recognize the signs.

When 18-year-old Amanda DeBrielle reflects on her high school years, she sees how much she's grown, literally. "When I was in eighth grade," Amanda explains, "I was the shortest, by like, you know, five inches, like so it would be like all my friends and then me."

A photo shows the striking difference. Her girlfriends were growing up, Amanda still looked like a little kid. But all the doctors said she's fine, she'll grow, don't worry about it. The truth is, Amanda's growth had flatlined. She hadn't grown at all in six years.

Doctor Adda Grimberg says growth is a vital sign of a child's health, "Many diseases present with growth failure long before there are other symptoms. So if we focus on the height rather than the growth we may be missing important clues."

In a study at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Doctor Grimberg found doctors referred twice as many short boys as girls to specialists like her, "The most worrisome finding is that looking at their final diagnoses; 41 percent of the girls had underlying diseases versus 15 percent of the boys."

Gender bias can shortchange both sexes because healthy, but short, boys may go through needless tests while short girls with growth stunting diseases may be overlooked.

"If there is evidence of growth falling off or growth failure, then it should be taken equally seriously for boys and girls."

It turns out, Amanda had Celiac Disease, a wheat allergy. She switched to a wheat free diet and shot up, growing six inches in four years.

"Its not, you know, wait - is she in sixth grade or is she graduating high school, you know? So it's a lot better," now she's caught up and grown up with her friends.

Doctor Grimberg says parents should keep track of their child's growth chart and make sure their doctor has one, especially if they move around a lot.

Posted 1:39pm by Bryce Mursch

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