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June 27th, 2011
07:54 AM ET

Why am I only 5 feet tall?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by Grayson from Texas

I'm a boy and I'm 14 years old. I'm also exactly 5 feet tall. What is wrong with me?

Expert answer

Thanks for your question. Many kids are concerned about their size and I hear comments like this often. Since being 5 feet tall at your age is in the normal range, my first instinct is to say that there is nothing wrong with your height at all.

Without knowing more about your past growth, family background, medical conditions, etc., it's not possible to give details but here is some information that I can provide.

A person's height is largely determined by genetics, especially how tall your parents and grandparents are and how tall people of a similar genetic background are.

In the United States, the average adult height for men is about 5 feet 9.5 inches, but this number differs widely in different countries - for example, 5 feet 5 inches in India and about 6 feet in the Netherlands.

One way to estimate a person's adult height is to determine what's called the mid-parental height. For a quick rough calculation, take an average of both parents' heights and add 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) for boys or subtract 1 inch for girls. A person's final height is expected to be within about 2 inches (5 centimeters) below or above the mid-parental height number.

A height of 5 feet is at the 10th percentile for 14-year-old boys, meaning that out of a group of 100 boys who are your same age, you would be taller than about 10 of them. (If you are closer to 15 years old, this percentile would be slightly lower.)

Short stature is defined as being less than two standard deviations (about the third percentile) below average for age and gender. For 14-year-old boys, being less than about 58 inches is considered short stature.

Growth charts for boys and girls at all ages

Keep in mind that there are many people who have a growth spurt later in life (such as after high school) and it's possible to continue growing until one's late teens or mid-twenties. Again, your family's growth patterns will affect whether you follow the typical growth curve or peak relatively early or relatively late.

If you have more questions about your height, please consult with your pediatrician and possibly a pediatric endocrinologist, as it may be necessary to rule out medical problems such as digestive issues, heart problems or low thyroid or growth hormone levels.

Treating any medical conditions that exist can help and, when appropriate, growth hormone injections can increase a person's ultimate height if started before puberty.

Good luck!

Follow Dr. Shu on Twitter


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.