Am I done growing?

Originally Published: November 10, 2006
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Dear Alice,

I am an 18 year old male, 5'5" 160 lbs. I just graduated high school and ironically, I am the same height I was as a freshman (maybe less than a half-inch difference). I still have a "baby face" as people would say and have not fully developed facial hair which grows a little bit down from my ears and a little fuzz on my chin and mustache area. I feel like I haven't fully grown yet and I hope it's true. Can I look forward to one more growth spurts or stage of puberty, ect.? Is there any sure way to tell?

Dear Reader,

It's understandable to wonder why you haven't grown much in four years while many of your friends may have changed drastically. It's important to remember that everyone develops at his or her own rate, and males tend to develop later than females.

Puberty usually begins between the ages of 7 and 13 in girls and 9 and 16 in boys, but some people may begin earlier or later. Delayed puberty is often attributed to heredity — the males or females in a family may simply develop later than usual. This is called constitutional delay and does not warrant any special treatment, just a little time and patience. It may be helpful to talk with other male members of your family (e.g., your father, grandfather, or first cousins) to see when they experienced their growth spurts. If your relatives tend to be around your current height and weight, it's possible that you've already gone through puberty and are finished growing.

Other causes of delayed puberty include under-nutrition or malnutrition, chronic health conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, or problems with the pituitary or thyroid glands. These glands produce some of the major hormones that drive growth, so a malfunction in one or both can have a significant effect on development. Genetic disorders, including Klinefelter Syndrome (in males) and Turner Syndrome (in females), can also affect development.

If you find that other indicators of puberty are lacking, such as the deepening of your voice, the growth of your penis and testes, or the appearance of pubic hair, you might want to consider visiting your health care provider. S/he may run diagnostic blood tests to gauge your hormone levels and take your medical history to determine if your growth pattern is normal and healthy. X-rays of your growth plates (areas of your skeleton that have not fully hardened and can continue to grow) may also be taken to see if you've reached your final height. In some cases, providers may prescribe a short course of hormone treatments to kick-start puberty.

Although it's important to be confident and comfortable about how you look, you may also want to focus on other aspects of your life, whether it be taking up a new interest, spending quality time with your friends, or preparing yourself for the next stage of your life now that high school's over. That way, even if you never grow another inch, you can still be assured that others will see and respect you as a mature adult.

Alice