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What is Dwarfism?

Although we are aware of the fact that people differ from one another in many ways, there are very few differences that are more obvious than dwarfism. This article raises awareness about the problems faced by dwarves all over world. So, what is dwarfism? And how do people suffering from this condition deal with it?
Since dwarfism is a relative rare condition, most people don't even care about the unprejudiced treatments of these 'dwarves'. But like us 'normal' people, these individuals also have to deal with a similar set of day-to-day problems. And to add to the stress, they also have to overcome problems that are posed by their abnormally small stature. So, how do they deal with it? And, how does people's constant ridiculing of them affect their basic outlook on society?

What is It?

'Dwarfism' is a general term that is used to describe a rare condition wherein the person has a body that is considerably smaller than the average person's. A dwarf may suffer from certain medical problems that could lead to several lifelong complications and deformities. According to the Little People's Research Fund website, the deformities that are suffered by some individuals can lead to paralysis, extensive disabilities and even death. There are more than 2 million people in the United States alone suffering from this condition. However, what most people are not aware of is that dwarves can also be born to families that have no history at all.

Classification and Appearances

Today, there are several types that have been confirmed by researchers, but on the other hand, there are still many genes that still remain unidentified. The most common cause is achondroplasia, which is a certain bone growth disorder. Most people suffering from achondroplasia are generally born to 'normal-sized' parents, and the birth rate of such people is about 1 in 26,000 - 40,000 people. The most common characteristics of this type are normal-sized trunks with very short appendages, curved backs, and irregularly large heads with extremely prominent foreheads. In spite of all the disabilities that come along with achondroplasia, there have still been records of such individuals even reaching five feet in height and of them having normal mentalities. However, even though this is the most common and dominant form, there is still no treatment for the condition and those children who manage to retain both the dominant traits of the disease from their parents will rarely live through their early childhoods.

Another less common form of dwarfism is the rare achondrogenesis. When compared to an achondroplasia victim, a dwarf suffering from achondrogenesis will normally have a smaller trunk, smaller arms, smaller legs and a very large head. This is a very rare form and most children born with this condition tend to die soon after birth.

In most cases, it (whether achondroplasia or achondrogenesis) can be treated through many months of physical therapy and through extensive surgeries. However, there are still many complicated cases where there is no type of surgery available for the victim to walk freely again, without the aid of crutches or even a wheelchair. Correction of the physical abnormalities that are associated can be very difficult. But, in the long run, prevention and correction provides the person with the necessary physical ability to pursue his or her dreams and goals such as going to college or pursuing a certain career path. It also gives each of these dwarves the freedom and ability to become physically, and financially independent from their families.

Intervention of Science

Despite there being so many recent breakthroughs in science where this disorder is concerned, there are still many conditions that cannot be treated and are not preventable. People with personal experience mixed emotions and the benefits that come from being able to function normally are just outstanding. With such progress in science, within a few years, people will even be able to choose whether or not they want to have a dwarf child. This issue however, has brought along with it a lot of questions as to the quality of life and what gives us the right to do that?

Although there is no cure that is particularly disheartening to the dwarf as well as his family, most people feel that surgeries and treatment are not the only answers to their endless problems, as most treatment options are too drastic. Most families do the best they can to improve the conditions for their dwarf child's life. Not only do the individuals need to be supported but so do their families. Just like the dwarf, the family may also feel victimized and ostracized at times.

It has to be understood that apart from their tiny statures, they are just normal people. Dwarves have been called by many names for many years now, some being respectful while others are just downright derogatory. While the term 'Little person' or 'little people' may be acceptable, the term 'Midget' is considered to be highly offensive. Today, even in modern America's 'prejudice intolerant' cosmopolitan society, these individuals are still faced with a number of problems like discrimination in job and even social opportunities. Even today, dwarves are vulnerable to public ridicule and even physical abuse.

So, if people, whether average sized or short in stature, were mature enough to place their humanity before any other emotion, the world would probably be a much better place. The more we tend to stick labels on one another, the more we will disconnect ourselves from one another, and the more will we encourage prejudice and ignorance.
By Natasha Bantwal
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